Monday, December 28, 2009

The Spirit of the Disciplines

If a child wanted to play baseball like his favorite baseball player, could he accomplish this by simply mimicking that player in a game situation? Of course not. Because what that child doesn't see is that there is an entire lifestyle of training that goes into being that kind of a player on the field. Likewise, a concert pianist doesn't play pieces well because she concentrates really hard when she gets up to perform. It is a lifetime of work that goes into performing difficult pieces with ease.

Then why is it that we as Christians think that we can act like Christ simply by understanding what he did in the moments recorded in scripture? Is it really realistic to ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?" in a key situation without living the kind of lifestyle that Jesus lived in secret?

These are the kinds of questions that Dallas Willard poses in his enlightening book The Spirit of the Disciplines. This book has been a great help to me in understanding practical Christian living. I highly recommend it to anyone who would wish to understand the Christian disciplines.

"So, if we wish to follow Christ-and to walk in the easy yoke with him-we will have to accept his overall way of life as our way of life totally. Then, and only then, we may reasonably expect to know by experience how easy is the yoke and how light the burden". -Dallas Willard

Sunday, December 27, 2009


 We went to a Mosque this semester. It was for our philosophy class. We wanted to sit in on their prayer time and talk with them afterward. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met and after conversing with them, I had to go back.

So a few weeks later, we had heard about an open house that the mosque was having for the community. Some friends and I went. I was so impressed with there devotion and hospitality toward us. Now, granted, one organized question and answer panel with someone can not show you the true life transforming work of their worldview and religion, which I consider a very important factor of true faith. Still, it raised some questions in my mind that I haven't been able to let go of. The main question being, "How does God view those who are outside of a life in Christ yet pursue righteousness with all that they know to be true?" I have wrestled with this for quite some time. Then I came across Cornelius.

Cornelius was a God fearing man, but was neither a Jew nor a Christian (Acts 10:1-2). He was not able to practice Judaism but he led his household in fearing God, gave alms, and prayed continuously (v.2). He saw a vision, telling him to send for Peter. Peter, at this point, did not fully understand the way that God works in the hearts of man. He still had in his mind that salvation was only for the Jews. Then God came to him in a vision, telling him "what God has made clean, do not call common." This meant that all men were welcome to receive salvation in Christ and that Peter was to bring the message to the Gentiles too!

When Peter is explaining this dream to Cornelius, he says, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." Does this mean that people can earn salvation apart from Christ? Warren W. Wiersbe makes a keen observation about Cornelius;

The difference between Cornelius and many religious people today is this: he knew that his religious devotion was not sufficient to save him. Many religious people today are satisfied that their character and good works will get them to heaven, and they have no concept either of their own sin or of God’s grace. In his prayers, Cornelius was asking God to show him the way of salvation
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
We also must recognize that after Peter had said this, he preached the gospel to Cornelius. Before he could even finish, the Holy Spirit came on Cornelius and his whole house!

From this passage I notice two things: First, God honors a broken and contrite heart that fears him (Psalm 51). Second, while a God-fearing heart opens someone to the gospel, salvation comes through Christ alone. We see this is Acts 11:13-14, which says that Peter will declare to them a message from which they will be saved.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How do I find God's will?

"Listen to the still, small voice...."

"Wait for open doors...."

"Do what you love the most...."

"What would you do it you knew you couldn't fail?"

"Wait on the Lord."

"Only do it if you have peace about it."

"Love God, and do what you want." -St. Augustine

I have heard a myriad of solutions from probably hundreds of people as to how I should view finding God's will for my life, do the right thing, and do what makes me happy. I've been encouraged, I've been rebuked, I've been guilted, I've been reasoned with, and I have been emotionally coerced.  My certainty about my future and how I should view it have changed dramatically even on a daily bases. Something tells me I had to have been wrong at some points along the way...or was I? 

About Five years ago: I'm on a hurricane relief missions trip in New Orleans shortly after Katrina. A group of us are sitting around in a room with maps in our hands. Some are crying. Some are speaking in tongues. Some are off in a corner, praying intently. I was crouched over a map, crying, with my finger on Bolivia, trying to figure out if it was the Holy Spirit leading there or if it was just coincidence that I happened to look there right when I looked at the map.

You see, one of our team leaders told us that God may be calling some of us to the missions field for life and that we should pray over a map and see if He is leading us anywhere on the map. So, after some worship music, we went at it.

To tell you the truth I haven't really put much thought into Bolivia since.

About a year later: Some friends and I are sitting around a table, eating lunch at the Honor Academy in Lindale, TX. Sean and Shani tell me about a missions trip that they are going on to the jungles of Panama. Exciting right? I look at Sean and say, "I want to go."

I remember my prayer regarding that trip. It went something like this: "God, I want to live for your glory. This trip seems like something that will bring glory to your name. I am going to work toward this because it seems best. Please stop me if it wont bring you glory."

I have been following Christ for almost six years. I have made a lot of decisions since then and my mind was in a lot of different places when I was making them.

I've laid in my room, sure that God was confirming to me that a girl was the one for me...I broke up with her a month later.

I came to Liberty because I  didn't make the Core Adviser position at the Honor Academy that I wanted and I saw that as a closed door.

A few weeks ago I shared Christ with someone and I didn't ask God about it first.

Now I find myself, loving school and academics. I could probably be content continuing with my education, working in a church, and teaching for the rest of my life. I think that would probably make me really happy. I think that I would do it with great passion and purpose for the cause of Christ (by His grace alone).

Yet a see a great need in those who couldn't learn about Christ if they wanted to. Those people groups in remote places, who have never even heard the name of Jesus. People tell me that they can see me being a missionary. I agree with them. However, I think that some of them think that I would want nothing more that to leave my family, learn a language, live in poverty and suffer for Christ. That's silly. Of course I don't lay down at night and dream about sleeping in the jungle and contracting malaria. I want to go because I think that Christ is the only answer for those people. I am willing to suffer and die for Christ because I see that "the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us." Did Christ look forward to laying his life down on the cross? I think not. He did it because He loved the Father.

So what do I choose. What I would most enjoy or were I see the greatest burden?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where I am coming from

Once again, I find myself in my room, distraught because I am trying to understand God. I find myself here a lot. Bothered by something that I can't figure out, frustrated because it doesn't seem to be a problem for those around me, and then discouraged to realize that brilliant men and women have thought about this longer and harder than I have and disagree strongly with each other.

Sometimes...well, a lot of the time...I wonder if I am just way too intense. It's like I'm in my own little existence. When the rest of the world seems to be living in a sitcom, I feel like I am living on that island on LOST that just gets more confusing the more time you invest in trying to understand it. Then when I try to relate to people, I feel like one of the characters on the island must feel when they try to explain that they can't sleep at night because the black fog is eating all of their friends.

I've been off in my own world for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest elementary school memories was a time when my first grade teacher called my mom in because I hadn't been doing any of my homework. I was convinced that I had. It turns out that I had done all of my work, but had been cramming all of my completed homework in the back of my desk into a large paper ball. Somehow I thought that I had turned it in must just misunderstood some minor details about the process. Hence, my life.

All throughout middleschool, I didn't say much and most people just assumed that I was a really nice person because I had nothing mean to say. This really wasn't true, I was just picking people apart in my brain and was either too shy to vocalize it or was more concerned with the alien attack that was going on in my imagination.

Fast-forward to now and a lot has changed. I've become more social and not so much off in left field...I'm more like a shortstop. Most significantly, somewhere along the way, I found Christ (or he found me. I still can't quite figure that one out). Ever since that has happened to me, nothing has rightfully consumed my thoughts more. Jesus Christ has been the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep almost every day since the eleventh grade. What, to me, is the most gruesome thing to have taken place in history, that is the cross of Christ, has paradoxically become, for me, the most beautiful concept to grace my thoughts. I have not been the same, nor ever want to be, ever since I have encountered this backwards concept that Jesus Christ called The Kingdom of Heaven.

Yet, I am not so arrogant to think that I have understood everything that there is to be understood or that I am right in all I think I understand. That is where this blog will hopefully come into play. I am hoping that this will help me flesh out my journey in thinking. And hey, maybe you will enjoy reading it as well.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

In Christ, Josh