Friday, December 25, 2009

The Naughty List, Postmodernism and Just Desserts

I just re-read my own post from last Christmas, and although a year has passed, I could write the same thing today. Read it here if you'd like. This year my Christmas post is quite different, because the following was not originally intended for Spur. It was written and submitted to three different newspapers, all of which rejected or ignored it. But my writer's skin is growing thicker -- a good and needful thing.

I sincerely hope you are having the merriest of Christmases and that today you are celebrating the birth of YOUR Savior and resting in the peace that is He alone gives.


Postmodernism, the Naughty List, and Just Desserts


Have you been naughty or nice in 2009? That is the ubiquitous question of the season but is it just a lyrical, whimsical, childish query or does the question and its answer define much more about us than we usually acknowledge? After all there are some weighty philosophical presuppositions within the naughty and nice dichotomy. First of all, the dichotomy requires a standard by which naughtiness or niceness can be measured, and secondly, the dichotomy suggests that gifts are merit-based. Yet these assumptions are rarely recognized or discussed.


Is a Standard Even Possible?


Postmodern thought says there is no objective standard, that we can only determine our own values based on our own experiences. In other words, we can all have our own lists, but that there couldn’t possibly be a list. Yet postmodernism defeats its own “no absolutes” argument by claiming absolutely the nonexistence of absolutes. That may take some of us, including me, a few minutes to think through, but when we flex that logic muscle, the reality of it sinks in. Furthermore, we all have an undeniable sense that some behaviors are better than others. Few would attempt to equate the morality of a Nazi prison guard and a humanitarian worker helping flood victims in the Philippines. Yet as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other.” So when we use the naughty/nice dichotomy we are also making an implicit statement about postmodernism. Perhaps it’s just as Lewis suggested, in our heart of hearts we know there is indeed a standard somewhere out there.


Merit-Based Gift Giving


But there is also the issue of merit. How often do we hear and see the “you deserve it” lingo. It’s everywhere and we even tell our children that they better watch out and they better not cry. The message is that poorly behaved children don’t get gifts, while good little boys and girls earn them. They deserve them. Yet there couldn’t be anything more antithetical to the Christmas story told in the Bible. Because the real gift of Christmas is freely given, not to those who deserve it, not to those who are good, not to those who do well in school, not to those who are charitable or well-mannered, not to those who are religiously observant. The precious babe born on Christmas, the one and only child who never did make the naughty list, is the true gift and the true meaning of Christmas. His love, his peace and his sacrifice are freely given to all. To all, not just to the kindhearted and humble, but to the proud, the rude, the arrogant, the selfish, the impatient, the cruel, the backstabbing, the jealous, the unforgiving, and the irreverent. The greatest gift ever given was given to all.


This year may we discard the ridiculous mentality that anyone is earning or deserving anything. Instead may we hearken back to the original story by wishing unwarranted love, joy and peace to all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Biblically Beautiful Feet



Some people have beautiful feet with dainty toes and smooth skin. I am not one of them. As you can see from the picture above, mine are large and my toes are fat, and my husband, Will, says my second toe is king of the toes -- horror of horrors. In fact, I keep my toenails painted and my calloused heels uber-moisterized to prevent them from being mistaken for man feet. But my ugly-feet complex took a hard blow just the other day when my first grader, Nate, had an assignment concerning feet. He was to trace each family member's foot and then cut it out. According to Nate, and his questionable scissoring, my feet are as large as Will's (who is six-foot-four) with the gnarliest toes imaginable. My footprint from Nate's pattern just screamed out Sasquatch. I was so glad Nate was able to share his artistry with his whole class!

But the Bible has a very different view on feet. In Romans, Paul says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (10:15)

Paul is actually quoting from Isaiah, who wrote, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation." (52:7)

I love that imagery of a person scaling the mountain to bring good news, to proclaim peace, to bring good tidings and the message of salvation. Scaling a mountain takes effort; it implies sacrifice. But people on the other side crave hope and salvation. They need good news. They've searched for peace and have not found it.

The symbolism still applies today. There are many people we encounter everyday who need to know that Jesus loves them, that He provides meaning and hope for their everyday lives. May we be willing to bring good news, to proclaim peace, to bring good tidings, and proclaim salvation? In short, may we have biblically beautiful feet!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Excuses

I think people have different areas in which they are especially prone to judge. A very disciplined athlete probably has to fight judging the gluttonous couch potato. The lifelong teetotaler might be tempted to pass judgment on the socialite who imbibes too much. As for me, I am prone to judge atheists. Not only does the Christian faith make so much logical sense to me, not only does the coherent message of the Bible resonate with me so completely, I really have a hard time understanding how anyone could think life just happened. Giving birth, watching the stars come out on a clear night, skiing in the mountains, playing in the ocean -- these experiences leave me awestruck, totally humbled and convinced there is a God. I don't understand how people can embrace a truly full life and deny an Almighty. Of course, I'm not suggesting I've got it all figured out because I don't. We'll always have unanswered questions. If we didn't, we wouldn't need faith.

And the Bible certainly doesn't condone any propensity to judge, not mine, not the athlete's, not the teetotaler's. Each of us is called to follow Christ's example and be loving to all. There are no excuses or exceptions. Love is the standard. Besides, I grew up surrounded by people of faith; a biblical perspective is part of the fabric of my being. Without my heritage of faith, I might not have looked at my newborn quite the same way, or marveled quite so much that a few minutes before that little miracle of a person was inside of me.

But while it is not my job or yours to judge, judgment is coming. Sometimes we focus so much on the fact that God is love that we nearly forget that God is also truth. And the Bible says that "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1: 20) In essence this verse is saying that Creation itself should launch a sort of quest to find and know God.

Sadly, we can all think of various ways that followers of Christ impede this quest. May we reflect and pray this week that being judgmental isn't one of them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are You Bringing Strange Ideas?

I'm trying to read from John through Revelation before the end of 2009, and while I'm well into Acts, I'm still going to have to speed it up quite a bit to finish in time. Anyway, today a verse in Acts 17 really struck me. When Paul was preaching the gospel to the Greeks in Athens, they said, "You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (v. 20)

First of all, I love the phrase "bringing some strange ideas to our ears." It has a funny little ring to it, and something about it makes me smile. But the gospel of Jesus Christ -- the fact that he came to earth as a helpless little babe, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again -- is just as countercultural today as it was for Paul. His audience was a contemplative, philosophical crowd, and Athens was a city chock full of god and idols. But their ears had not heard the simple message of Christ. So Paul told them plainly, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (v.24) He told them that we are God's offspring, made in His image -- therefore "we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone -- an image made by man's design and skill." (v.29)

But are we willing to follow Paul's example? Are we willing to bring strange ideas to the ears of others? Are we willing talk about idolatry (even though it looks much different than it did at Athens), and point people to the One true God "who made the world and everything in it?"

If we haven't been doing this, it is a great time to start. May we boldly, prayerfully and respectfully bring strange ideas to the ears of others this season of Advent.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

God's Work: What is it?

It's nearing the end of the year, and this weekend my husband and I will review our charitable giving for 2009. We'll look at where and what we've given and pray about where to direct our end-of-year giving. Although we're not talking about any huge sums, the number of zeros is irrelevant. We need to be good stewards with whatever we have. And there are so many worthwhile causes, so many organizations doing great things for people and for God.

It's tempting to ask, "who is doing God's work?" But do you know what the work of God actually is? How the Bible defines God's work? In John 6:29 Jesus says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." That's our work: believing.

On the one hand, there's such freedom in this verse. My role on this earth is believing Jesus, trusting Him in things big and small. That's God's job description for my life, and it has such vivid parameters. I like that. But on the other hand, if I lived a life marked by belief, defined by belief, if I just personified complete and utter trust in His good, pleasing and perfect will, I know my life would be different.

It reminds me of the father in Mark 9 who pleads, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" May we honestly assess where we have unbelief in our lives and then ask God to help us overcome it. I mean when you think about it, your job is on the line. Believing is God's work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who is a Child of God?

Who is a child of God? And why is it important that followers of Christ are able to answer this question correctly?

Who Is and Who Is Not
The expression "we are all God's children" is pervasive but is it accurate? Are we God's children because we were created by Him and loved by Him? The Bible is clear God doesn't want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) and He loves us each as individuals more than we could fathom (see the entire book of John). But neither of these facts make us God's children. No, being a child of God connotes status and relationship, just like it does in any family. For example, I love kids. I often like them better than adults because they are so genuine and funny and enthusiastic. But even though I adore children in general, my own children are fundamentally different. Will, Nate and Sam all have unique status with me based on relationship.

It's far from a perfect analogy, yet being a child of God is also based on relationship. And how do you cultivate a relationship with a holy and all-knowing God, the very Creator of the universe? John 1: 12 says, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." There's really no ambiguity, no room to argue.

So are you a child of God? It depends on whether you believe in Jesus. Have you confessed with your mouth that "Jesus is Lord" and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead? (Romans 10:9). I hope so.

Isn't it a Technicality?

Some may think this is just semantics, that I'm being overly technical, but wrong thinking on this issue leads to a skewed, unbiblical worldview. If everyone is already a child of God, what was Golgotha all about? Why in the world would Jesus suffer and die? Another important question we should all know the answer to.

Believe

Did you watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade or visit a Macy's lately? Their marketing campaign is one word: Believe. They scrawl that word over everything and have even trademarked it. But the real magic of the season isn't at all nebulous or foggy or mystical, and has nothing to do with buying lots of gifts. The magic is the person of Jesus Christ who came to earth and died so that we could all be children of God. May the ubiquitous marketing of Macy's remind us of Jesus and what he did for us. May we believe and know that we are His!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to be grateful and I am blessed beyond measure in all kinds of ways. But since today is not only Thanksgiving, but the 26th of November, one blessing in particular stands out: my husband. Today is Will's 38th birthday!

Will is tall and handsome, smart and kind, hardworking and disciplined, athletic and fun. He is more than anything I could have ever dreamed up. No one makes me laugh like he does, and we can make a rip-roaring time of anything. And I mean anything. Grocery shopping is a total hoot with him. And yet he's also a person of depth. He reads a lot, prays a lot and thinks a lot. He's just a total stud. I can't even imagine who I would be without him. He's spurred me, loved me and encouraged me for nearly half my life. So this Thanksgiving I am so thankful for Will. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me such a wonderful mate.

So who are you thankful for today? May we be faithful in telling the people we love how thankful we are for them.

On a different note, I am going to start blogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Unlike Will, I am not a disciplined person so I need deadlines and commitments to keep me on track. Spur has proven to be a great tool for personal accountability, and my goal for the rest of 2009 is to start in the book of John and read through to the end of the Bible. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I'll blog about something in the passages that I have read. For example, on Tuesday I plan to blog from John 1.

I would love to have some of you join me in reading this section. It's a pretty ambitious reading schedule, but we can spur one another on, right?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lessons from My Three Sons

I've been blogging about Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline for two months now, and although I cannot recommend his book highly enough and learned a great deal through blogging about it, I've really missed sharing tidbits of my family. God has blessed children with magical innocence, unquenchable curiosity, and surprising insight. I love hearing about the sweet and funny things they say and do, and I love recording a sampling from my own little guys.

A Lesson from Will

My oldest son, Will, turned eight last month, and at his school they observe birthdays by bringing the child up front and singing "Happy Birthday." Then the child is usually posed some kind of a question like, "so what are you looking forward to doing while you are eight?" And my darling Will said, "Well, my Gramma is coming over today." And yes, my mom practically burst into tears when I picked her up at the airport a couple hours later. But the point is that even though Will is spoiled in many ways, with toys and experiences galore, what he really looks forward to is hanging out with Gramma. That's living in the present, and it's such an admirable quality. How many adults do you know that are that relational? People for whom the real treasure of their hearts is people -- not things, not status, not the next achievement or the next experience. Yet Jesus said we will be known by our love for one another. (John 13:35)

A Lesson from Nate

My middle son, Nate, is a smartypants. He has an unbelievable memory and loves to learn. Plus he artfully capitalizes on his good looks and engaging personality. He will talk to anyone of any age and he has interesting things to say because even though he is only six, he knows a lot about a lot of things, especially sports. He likes to ensure kids at school are kept fully abreast of the latest sports news, coach firings, team records, upcoming opponents, and amazing plays. He told me yesterday that he didn't know if he could really give good updates at school for golf and tennis because he doesn't really know many of the players. So that's kind of an indication of what he does know -- pretty much everything else! The problem with Nate is that he does no wrong. He is never to blame. Yesterday he was sent to "The Red Hot Spot" in class. And guess what? "It was for nothing! Maybe she didn't think I had raised my hand but I did." Yeah, right. That stubborn it's-not-my-fault stance is so unattractive and yet so very common. Like Nate we all need to be reminded that none is perfect, and that a willingness to own up is imperative. 1 John 1:9 says, "That if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." But the verse and the promise turn on the word "if." Is there something you need to confess today? I myself just made a phone call.

A Lesson from Sam

Often times when Sam toddles into a room, Daddy will yell out, "Big Sam!" It's kind of like a Cheers thing, and we do it for the other boys too. Unfortunately, for me, Sammy doesn't yet realize that I actually do not want to be in on this little charade. A couple of weeks ago I entered the room where Sam was playing and was graced with the animated greeting of: "Big Mom!" And then a few days ago, when I did something that especially met Sam's two-year-old approval, he patted me gently and said, "Good boy!" Yes, being the lone female has its costs. But don't you just love his enthusiasm? Many times each day he runs over to me with that huge, open mouth smile and arms spread like eagles, proclaiming, "So good to see you!" It is totally random. We may have spent every waking moment together all day, and he will still do it. Needless to say, I love it. I'm dreading that it will likely end. But should it? Maybe we can all learn something from Sam. Throw your arms around someone today and tell them, "So good to see you!" And mean it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Celebration

Who doesn't enjoy a good party, right? But what exactly makes a party good? Here's my definition: engaging conversation with interesting people of depth and character and lots of laughter over hopeful and candid stories. A gourmet menu and intimate setting may provide great context, but the essence of a party is people--transparent, fun, interesting people. People who like to celebrate.

This last chapter of Richard Foster's seminal work, Celebration of Discipline, is my favorite, because it's a call to party. He says, "Without joyous celebration to infuse the other disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong." Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.191. Have you ever been to a dinner party or gathering, large or small, that invigorated you just the way Foster says? Did you leave feeling more energetic, stronger? I have. In fact, last month I had a dinner out with my beloved Miggno (Multi-generational Girls Night Out) and left feeling like I could lasso the moon.

But a true spirit of carefree celebration isn't something that just happens. There are some prerequisites. First of all, worrying is not allowed. Worry is ruinous to a merry parade. And your everyday Joe is a worrier. The lack of security in today's society is omnipresent from financial woes, to terrorism, to senseless and horrific crime, to broken families, natural disasters, widespread disease and a sense of meaninglessness. People who spend an inordinate amount of time watching every worrisome detail unfold in front of them cannot help but be affected. They don't celebrate. They worry.

But a biblical worldview requires a very different perspective. In Philippians 4 we are commanded to rejoice always and to not be anxious. We are told that if we present our requests to God we will have the peace that transcends understanding. That peace doesn't mean everything is perfect all the time, but it does enable a spirit of celebration. Without this spirit, parties mask anxiety and meaninglessness, and they are draining and depressing.

But a God-given carefree outlook is not the only requirement for a successful celebration, there is also the need for obedience. Foster makes this point as succinctly as it can possibly be made: "Joy is found in obedience." Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.193. It's the paradox of Psalm 119. We may think that God's law is there to restrict us, to tell us what we cannot do, to strap us in so we can't have too good of a time, but that's a childish view. The truth is that there is joy in obedience. Restrictions are there for our own good. Remember God created us. He kind of knows what will make us happy and what won't.

So how are you doing? When was the last time you observed some event or accomplishment with a true spirit of celebration? May we not discount the importance of celebrating, and may we live out the words of Augustine: "The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Guidance: Who Needs a Mentor?

I've taken a couple weeks off from blogging because my family traveled to San Diego last week and trips tend to set me back, way back. Even just the preparatory and post-vacation laundry is ridiculously consuming for me; I don't know why. Not that it isn't well, well worth it. We had a fabulous time, and I can hardly keep myself from dreaming up some scheme to get back there.

But I'm also excited to finish up blogging about Celebration of Discipline. This book has been consistently enlightening and challenging, and these last two chapters are no different. In fact, I've met a number of people who've told me they've started Celebration but never finished it, and that's such a shame. Because, in my opinion, the last chapter is the best of all. So please check back on Thursday for the final installment: the discipline of celebration.

Richard Foster breaks this chapter into two parts, corporate guidance and individual guidance. I've not had the opportunity to experience guidance in the corporate form, but cannot overemphasize the importance of it on an individual basis. As I've mentioned many times in the past, I did the fellows program of the C.S. Lewis Institute (find out more here). A mentoring relationship is a vital component of the program and my two lovely mentors (Linda for Year 1 and Nancy for Year 2) were and are a blessing beyond measure in my life. They encouraged me, prayed for me, listened to me, gave me direction, held me accountable, invested in me with the love and compassion. They helped me set goals and implement truths we encountered in our study together. Everyone needs a mentor. The problem is identifying the right person to fulfill this need.

The best first step is to start praying about finding a mentor. I believe God wants us to have someone investing in us, and I believe He will answer this prayer. The verse that is, in essence, the mission statement of this blog is a call to "spur one another on to love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24) So if you know someone who might be able to mentor you, to spur you on, be bold and ask, and ask them to pray about mentoring you too. If you don't know anyone, maybe start inquiring at church or at Bible study.

I'll be praying that some Spur readers will be spurred on this week to seek out a mentor. I'll be praying that just the right person is willing to share themselves with you and serve God in this way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Discipline of Worship

It occurred to me as I read this chapter of Celebration of Discipline that there are some basic principles that apply to all the disciplines. No matter which discipline, the best way to learn it is by doing it, and you should do it even when you don't feel like it. Emotional readiness is unimportant, even irrelevant. What matters is obedience. How you feel about it is likely to change anyway. The adage that right feelings follow right actions has universal application.

Take the discipline of worship. As Foster states, the call to worship is repeated throughout Scripture, and obeying that call can take various forms. We should expect worship to look and feel very different across cultures and populations. Even among the same demographic, each person is unique. So why would the worship of two very different individuals look exactly the same? Yet there are people who think they know the one right way to worship.

And quite honestly it's hard not to judge. I'll tell you a personal story to illustrate my point. In May of 2005, my husband was in Germany for work, and I had the opportunity to hear Ravi Zacharias speak at an event sponsored by the C.S. Lewis Institute. Sometimes it's almost liberating to go to an event by yourself because you are not distracted and not tempted to analyze someone else's perception. Anyway it was a two-day event that I almost didn't get to. I remember my babysitter fell through and my darling neighbor across the street encouraged me to go: "I'll keep the boys," she said. And so I did. I went that night and the next morning. Ravi's message was the best I've ever heard in my life. He tied together the biggest longings and the most nagging questions of human existence, and in the end he eloquently showed how all of these are answered and fulfilled at the Cross. I had never heard anything so philosophically satisfying, so intellectually beautiful, and the idea that the intellect and the philosophy stemmed from Jesus' love for us! Well, I was overwhelmed, to say the least. When Ravi was done I had the strongest desire to lay down on the floor of the church and sob my heart out. But I didn't. People would have thought I was nuts. I would have thought that I was nuts.

But maybe we need to let people be. Maybe we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that we know the one right way. Because I think it would have been a profoundly sincere form of worship if I would've laid down and cried that day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Confession

This chapter is pretty heavy, and I do not intend to delve too deeply into the theology. But what really struck me as I've read and pondered this chapter is how this discipline is really a component of corporate prayer. If you are not praying with other people, then the discipline of confession is probably not a part of your life. If you are meeting with one to two to three others, then I imagine that confession plays at least some role. I have two lovely women that I pray with once a month, and confession is not a formal part of what we do, but it is to some degree a natural part. I'm not saying we confess anything horrifyingly big or shocking, but in the natural course of us talking about what we might pray about, confession is implicit. There are a whole host of reasons why we should do this, but I want to focus on two.

Knowing You are NOT Alone
One of the great deceptions of Satan is to try to convince us that we are the only one who's ever done or thought such a thing. But the Bible is clear: "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man." (1 Corinthians 10:13) Through transparency and confession you quickly learn that other people have been tempted in the same way or even committed the same sins. Confession is a great way to combat that little voice that doesn't want you forgiven, that beats you up mentally over and over again for the same transgression. Obviously, it is not that you can only be forgiven by telling another human being, but confessing it to someone else might be a great help with embracing the forgiveness that is already yours. And like Foster said, it is not just anyone that you'd want to do this with. So if you don't have friends that listen to you, love you and pray for you and can keep a confidence, then seek them out and ask God to bring them into your life.

Transformation
There is amazing transformation in forgiveness, and it is, in many respects, a person's greatest need. There's a Newsboys song that says, "you are only sick as all your secrets." Is that not true? We can be so transformed, so freed from our secrets, through confession and forgiveness. But God won't make you do it. Your friends, the very best most godly friends, can't make you do it. It is 100% up to you.

So let me just close with that great summation from St. Alphonsus Liguori: "For a good confession three things are necessary: an examination of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin."

May we examine our hearts this week and ask God for guidance and wisdom in implementing the discipline of confession.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Service: The Ministry of the Towel

This chapter of Celebration of Discipline almost leaves me with a sick feeling, so convincing and convicting is Foster's argument. My husband works a lot, he is in the midst of earning an MBA, and we have three children--the youngest of whom is home every day. These were my feeble rationalizations for why I could not, presently, lead a life of service. But Foster really puts to shame my wrongheaded thinking.

The "ministry of the towel" demonstrated by Jesus' washing of the disciples feet is a high standard. He sacrificed the honor due him to engage in the humble task of washing feet. Isn't it interesting that right then the disciples were bickering about who was greatest among them? It's clearly not that they earned a good foot-bath for their loving and selfless support. Yet we often want to serve the deserving and we want credit for our efforts. Contrast that with Jesus: He served his undeserving disciples and then instead of being grateful they fell asleep when they were supposed to be praying and then denied even knowing Him. Even so, we are somewhat comfortable with the idea that God's system is not merit-based. The real struggle is applying this economy in our own lives. If we deign to serve someone, we don't want to be slapped in the face in return. But Jesus example illustrates that we should be okay with that. As Foster says, "If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated." Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.132. Incredibly countercultural, and I must admit that the very idea of being taken advantage of stirs a proud defiance in a dark corner of my heart.

So I need to start by being much more available and vulnerable. And I need to bear in mind that my stage of life is not an exemption, especially since "Service is not a list of things we do...but a way of living." Celebration, p.134.

I also really liked how Foster broke up service into different components. We can all minister to others by listening. I've been learning the importance of "listen, love, pray." Sometimes we are so quick to give advice, when what the person really needs is a listening ear, a loving heart, and a thoughtful, believing prayer.

May we daily pray, as Foster suggests, for someone to serve in some way. At the very least we can listen, love and pray.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Submission and Romans 12

Submission is a daily, often unpredictable battle. We may always have our ups and downs, but Celebration of Discipline has some great thoughts on leading an increasingly surrendered life. I liked Richard Foster's discussion of the "cross-life" because who among us doesn't have a lot of work to do in this area? And I especially love the end of the chapter where he talks about seven distinct acts of submission, because we can really get a hold on how we are doing by looking at these seven areas. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, let me once again encourage you to obtain and read the book. Click here to purchase.

But there was one thing that Richard Foster didn't talk about that I think is really important when it comes to submission. A few years ago I heard Chip Ingram give a life-changing message on this topic. (check out Chip's ministry at www.lote.org) Will and I were attending a conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Chip was teaching that weekend out of Romans 12, and on that Sunday morning he was wrapping up his remarks by reviewing, in part, what it means to live a life fully surrendered to God. Many of us know Romans 12:1 pretty well: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God --this is your spiritual act of worship." (NIV) But I'd never before considered the verb tense used in this familiar verse. Interestingly, in the Greek the tense means something that is ongoing but also something that happens at a point in time. Don't you just love the nuances in God's Word? I mean the ongoing part isn't surprising. We know we need to work at being submissive. Surrender doesn't come naturally and we need to declare that Jesus is Lord everyday. But what really struck me, what Chip so artfully pulled out, was that this surrender also happens at a point in time. And it's not when you give your life to Christ. In other words, this verse is asking you to make a one time, all out surrender. We may rationalize that we can never attain perfection -- "it's a journey". And it is. But it is also a moment. A moment between you and God where you commit to Him, not for the sake of your salvation, but for the sake of Christ's Lordship in your life. Have you made that kind of commitment? Or is there something or someone you've held back?

May I boldly invite you to surrender all to Him today?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Simplicity and Solitude

Simplicity

As I've prayed and thought more about simplicity over the last few days I haven't had any big revelations. I know there is yet a lot to chew on, and certainly there is a part of me that yearns to be simplified, organized and disciplined, but there is also a part of me that fights back. Something about aiming for simplicity just doesn't ring true for me; it doesn't sound joyful, and I'm not convinced that it should be the goal. I'm not saying that simplicity doesn't have its place. It does. But the balance isn't struck by setting out to lead simple lives. The balance comes in embracing the lavish love of Jesus and in realizing that all we have comes from Him. Material possessions are held loosely by a humble person. A humble person doesn't derive worth from things. So isn't humility the goal? Isn't knowing who you are in Christ the goal? Isn't recognizing the source of true fulfillment the antidote to "the mammon spirit"? Maybe it's semantics, but I like humble more than simple. Simple is just not something I feel called to be. Simple sounds boring. Humble is different. Humble never diminishes the intrinsic worth; it just points to the source. A leader can (and should) be humble and great at the same time. For me simple is not about pointing to someone else--yet this is the call of a Christian. Foster claims that simplicity is freedom. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.79. But I'm uncomfortable with that statement. Simplicity has its place. My need for simplicity is great. But I cannot equate it with freedom. The paradoxes of this life are many. Freedom is found in submission. True identity is best found in death to self. And undoubtedly less is often more, but I cannot agree with the absolute "simplicity is freedom."

I need to continue to seek wisdom and guidance on this front. It is a tough topic -- a topic most of us need to ponder more often. On a related note a great sermon on humility was given by Lon Solomon on 10/04/09; watch or listen at www.mcleanbible.org.

Solitude

There is a time to be silent. Have you ever been in a situation so far over your head that your only option of escaping with a shred of respect was to keep silent? I have. Many times. I can remember being in meetings almost laughing to myself at my utter ignorance. "What am I doing here?" I'd think. I didn't dare open my mouth and reveal to everyone else how out of my element I really was. That cognizance of my own ineptitude was a good thing. It meant I sat there and listened; listened like my job depended on it, which it did. Well, I think solitude is the same way. We need to realize our ineptitude. We need to listen like our lives depend on it because they do. So let's turn off the radio, the iPod, the Pandora, and the television. Let's put down the book. Let's have enough discipline to stop composing the mental to-do list. Let's be still and listen.

This week may we be like little Samuel saying, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3: 10).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Simplicity, Part 1

I'm finding it hard to think too deeply about simplicity when I've been running from one thing to the next all day long. And yet this is such an important topic. So I'd like to share some initial thoughts and some quotes that I believe are worth pondering. Then maybe in the next day or two I'll post something a bit more contemplative.

Foster, pointing to Matthew 6, says that simplicity is an outgrowth of having a singular mindset -- seeking first his kingdom and righteousness. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 86. Certainly this is true, and there is great wisdom in keeping first things first. But I'm wondering if there are some different ways of looking at simplicity too. (Disclaimer: This might be entirely self-serving. I do not live a life of simplicity. I may be prone to rationalize, and as Peter Kreeft says "Complexifying is a great cop-out. Excuses are always complex.") First, wouldn't knowing our true identity lead to greater simplicity? And secondly, wouldn't a daily reminder (back to the old preach the gospel to yourself everyday) of where true fulfillment comes from also naturally lead to greater simplicity?

True Identity

A person who derives their identity from status and possessions is a person for whom simplicity is impossible, by definition. I am quite familiar with this status-and-possession-driven demographic. Fancy clothes and luxury cars surround me, but they don't impress me. Neither do advanced degrees and big titles. None of these things are terribly bad in themselves. The issue is really whether these things define you. For a lot of people they seem to. There is a pervasive, unquenchable thirst for more. I love the quote from Arthur Gish that Foster used, "We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like." There really is a psychosis at work for people to labor so hard at something so futile. There is no satisfaction in a rat race. Ever. Because there is always a need for more, and Christians shouldn't ever find themselves in such a race. Instead the identify of a Christian is based on Christ. That means we are to love Him, glorify Him, praise Him, and proclaim Him because that's who we are. We are not stuff. We are not status. We are children of God and we have a high calling to fulfill. Oftentimes stuff gets in the way.

True Fulfillment

Blaise Pascal said this: "What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." (Pensees 7.425) In short, the God-shaped hole in our heart aches. We try to fill it with so many things, when only God fits. Isn't part of the struggle with simplicity trying to shove something, often with force, into that God-shaped void? I think greater simplicity would be automatic if we'd stop shoving. Letting God be all He wants to be in our lives is so simple. Not easy, mind you. But so, so simple.

So there's a lot to work through here. And we know where we stand on this. It's pretty easy to self-evaluate.

A couple quotes:

"All of us, deep down, know that the meaning of life is just one word, and all of us, deep down, know what word that is." (Peter Kreeft)

"If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so." (C.S. Lewis)

This week I'm going to pray for eyes to see what God has for me here, and also for a willingness and resolve to put it into practice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Discipline of Study

We know that our God often uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), so does that mean that we should remain foolish? Can we just trust that in our stumbling stupor we will somehow shame the wise? Of course not! Paul is clear: "Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do." Ephesians 5:17 (NLT). All of the spiritual disciplines, including study, help us to "place ourselves before God so that he can transform us." Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 7. One result of transformation is understanding what the Lord wants us to do.

Unlike fasting, which is a struggle to say the least, study is kind of my thing. I've done Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), Community Bible Study (CBS), Beth Moore studies, and others. All of these are great, but the absolute best program I have ever been a part of is the Fellows Program through the C.S. Lewis Institute. And I think the depth of this program is related to Foster's four steps of study: (1) repetition; (2) concentration; (3) comprehension; and (4) reflection. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 64-66. If you get a group of people to read a book that's one thing. When you get to unpack a book of spiritual truth, or a selection of Scripture, with people who have taken the time to really read it, mark it up, and digest it in a manner similar to the way Foster recommends, then that is a whole other thing. A much better thing! And I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to do this with many, many books. In the course of the two years of the program I sat around with incredible people and chewed on about fifty different books -- heavy, well-written, challenging books. We read Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Schaeffer, Murray, and many others. (I also attended lectures given by Henry Blackaby, Ravi Zacharias, J.I. Packer and others). More than any other experience in my life, the Fellows Program taught me to study. It also meant that the very few hours of television that I used to watch had to be discarded. Because study requires time; it requires concentration; it requires reflection. You can't do that and watch television at the same time.

So I have a long way to go with the discipline of study--especially right now because I am not currently doing any formal program. I need to come up with a plan for myself. This book is part of that plan, but I need to formalize what I intend to do next, and what Scripture I intend to study. (not just read or meditate on, but study). And I need to tell someone about it so that they can hold me accountable. As Americans we have so many resources at our fingertips that we are really without excuse.

In short, I agree with Foster, "Study is well worth our most serious effort." May we spur one another on to make that effort.

And for those of you reading along, I'd love to know what you liked best in this chapter and also if you've found a particular program helpful in learning to really study books and/or Scripture.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fasting

First a bit of housekeeping. I thought Richard Foster should know that I was blogging about his book so I emailed him. An assistant of his got back with me yesterday and requested that I properly and fully cite his work, and encourage my readers to buy the book, which of course I am happy to do. So once again here is the link for ordering Celebration of Discipline. Also you may want to check out Renovare, which is the ministry founded by Richard Foster.

Now back to the disciplines. Can I just say that fasting is a difficult topic for me to discuss? The idea of fully revealing my spiritual immaturity with this discipline makes me want to crawl under the table. I am not a disciplined person in general. With regard to food I'm about as undisciplined as you can possibly be. And we all know people who are toothpick thin and joke about their indulgences, but my level of indulgence is something these people know nothing about. I mean I still kid around about it, but really it is not funny. It's gluttony. It's sin. And sin isn't funny. If God hadn't been merciful in giving me a good metabolism I think I'd be morbidly obese instead of just overweight. I mean it. So there is absolutely no insight that I can add to fasting. I'm about as newbie as they come. And for me, efforts to fast, however short are tainted by a dieting mentality. I am already prone to think way too much about how I might lose these twenty extra pounds. So it's a serious issue because as Foster indicates, the biblical fast always centers on God. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), p.54.

So personal insight into the how and why of fasting? None. But I was convinced even before reading this book, that there is a biblical call to fast, and Foster is methodical in going through the biblical foundation. He also explains that, "Fasting helps us keep balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them." Celebration of Discipline, p.56.

I need balance. I need discipline. I need moderation with food. I need to not be enslaved by cravings. I need to consume less. I need to think less about what I will consume. Oh my, there is a lot of work to be done in me. May I cling this week to Philippians 1:6, "being confident that He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion..."


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jesus in a Chair


I went away for the weekend, without my family, and I stayed in a delightful bedroom which looked out onto the Chesapeake Bay, pictured above. This photograph was not taken from my bedroom, but was right below it on the lawn. I slept with the window open, the gentle breeze lulling me into a slumber so deep it bordered on comatose. But in the middle of the night, the door to my bedroom flew open. I was startled awake and my heart raced, but then I saw Jesus sitting peacefully in a little wooden chair beside my bed. He wasn't at all concerned about the open door. He was just staring at me.

"Well, if Jesus is here," I thought, "it's probably alright if I just go back to sleep." And so I did. I didn't even bother to close the door.

There's a few things you may want to know before making any judgments about this story. The next day, in broad daylight, my door flew open again, but it seemed to be caused by a sudden gust of wind. It was still a little odd, but I think I just didn't have it closed tightly, and the pressure change somehow opened the door. The second thing is that I am a very, very deep sleeper. One time when my husband was working overnight our security alarm went off in the wee hours. Guess what I did? I stumbled out of bed, made my way over to the keypad and punched in the code to turn it off. Is that funny or what? "Intruder, schmuder, I'm trying to sleep!" I was horrified in the morning when I put the pieces of the night together. Thankfully, something other than a criminal had tripped the alarm. The third thing that might be of interest is that I've never before had such a Jesus-sighting.

So honestly I don't know if I was just tired, scared, or that Jesus was truly visible in that chair. Each is possible and I don't think it matters one iota what really happened. Because what I know in my heart of hearts is that Jesus was there in the room with me, because He is always with me. He told us that He is the Good Shepherd, and He is. (John 10). He knows me, and He cares for me. He patiently uses the crook of His staff to guide me; He uses the rod of His staff to shoo away predators. Sometimes my Shepherd leads me beside quiet waters, and He always restores my soul. There is no need for me to fear evil, because He is with me. (Psalm 23).

So maybe Jesus was sitting in the chair, or maybe it was a figment of my imagination. Would that be bad? I don't think so. Who gave us our imagination anyway? Do you use yours enough? I'm thinking that maybe I don't. The Psalmist certainly was adept at using his. What beautiful word pictures! I am so thankful for all the vivid comfort woven through the Psalms.

I know some of you were expecting to move on in the Richard Foster book to the discipline of fasting, and we will on Thursday, but this extra post gives a few people a little more time to catch up. Plus I think this Jesus in the chair experience raises an important issue which applies to both meditation and prayer.

Foster said it best:

To believe that God can sanctify and utilize the imagination is simply to take seriously the Christian idea of incarnation. God so accommodates, so enfleshes himself into our world that he uses the images we know and understand to teach us about the unseen world of which we know so little and which we find so difficult to understand.

So may we boldly ask God to sanctify and utilize our imaginations this week!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Intercessory Prayer

I'm so excited that a number of people (even a few with whom I am not related!) have decided to join me in reading Celebration of Discipline. I also have a few friends who are currently reading this book in small groups (merely by coincidence, if you believe in such things), and I hope they will check in and maybe share some thoughts too. I have never read anything that so systematically addresses spiritual disciplines, and even though we are only on the second discipline, I'm already reassessing some things.

Foster focuses mainly on intercessory prayer, and I think it is important to limit ourselves a bit given the topic is simply inexhaustible. So what I'd like to discuss is the following question: what did you find most thought-provoking in this chapter? In other words, what has really stretched your thinking about prayer?

For me it was a great and needed reminder that prayer changes the course of human events. We cannot understand how exactly this change occurs, and we don't need to. At least initially, we just need to accept it. Because until we believe that prayer makes a tangible, objective difference, we cannot pray with power. Once we start praying we can see results, and the how question becomes less a curiosity. I mean, in a sense, who cares how it works? I have no understanding of electricity. I just know when I flip the switch the light comes on. And that mystery, created by human hands, doesn't bother me a bit. The divine mystery of determinative prayer should bother me even less.

Last month I blogged that the ultimate purpose of prayer is to align our will with the will of our Heavenly Father. At first glance that may seem to contradict the above paragraph, but if you look closely, it does not. The pivotal point, the point that I am so thankful Foster reminded me of, is that our Heavenly Father's will is actually fluid. Foster writes that the Bible "speaks of God constantly changing his mind in accord with his unchanging love." I think perfect alignment is usually struck by us doing most of the realigning, but amazingly, almost unfathomably, God's will is subject to change too. A corollary is that neither Jesus nor His disciples prayed with my trusty proviso, "if it's Your will." And that makes sense to me now, because when we really know God we aren't going to pray for things that would be outside His will, as defined merely by His character. But quite honestly, the idea of letting go of "if it's Your will" is almost frightening to me. Maybe that reveals how "half-hoping" some of my prayers have been.

So what does all this mean for us? It means we have a daunting responsibility to pray. May we rise up and pray believing prayers for others this week.

And I know some of you probably got something totally different out of this chapter, and I cannot wait to hear about it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Christian Meditation




Before we jump into the book, let me lay out my plan. For the next six weeks I plan to blog twice each week. I'll be using Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, as a jumping off point and hope to add Scripture and other sources to the ideas that Foster shares in each chapter. So today, we'll look at meditation, and then on Thursday, we'll jump into prayer. With a Monday/Thursday pace it will take us six weeks to go through the book. The great thing is that these are such discrete topics that I think anyone can truly jump in anywhere. And although I've only just begun reading, can I just say that I absolutely love this book. It is timeless. It is brilliant. The writing is simple and anointed. I'm so excited about studying the disciplines, implementing the disciplines and about the transformation I expect God to work in my own life.

The first discipline that Foster addresses is meditation; he devotes seventeen pages to the topic, so a couple of paragraphs can only begin to scratch the surface. Please read the book! But one thing that is clear is that we should meditate. After all, the Bible says to. The Lord told Joshua to meditate day and night. The Psalmist meditated "all day long" and claimed to have "more insights than all [his] teachers" as a result. Paul said we need to renew our minds, that we need to be in control of our thoughts, setting our minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely -- that we need to meditate on these things. (See Romans 12 and Philippians 4).

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Yet many people, myself included, have spent years in good, Bible-believing churches without a single mention of meditation. One explanation might be that many people associate meditation with Eastern religions. This association is totally misguided because the two practices are actually opposite. The goal of Eastern meditation is to empty the mind, and despite Elizabeth Gilbert's great writing in Eat, Love, Pray emptying the mind in this way has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. No, Christian meditation fills the mind with God's word and God's truth as revealed in creation. There is also a contemplative and quiet component, but the goal in this phase is to hear from God. This is very unlike Eastern meditation, where detachment is the key and the ultimate desire is not to hear from anyone or anything but to merge with the Cosmic Mind.

So in a sense, Christian meditation is a willingness to listen, and an expectation that something will be said. But listening takes time and "God's acquaintance is not made hurriedly." (E.M. Bounds). We need to persevere, even when we are not in the mood, even when we don't feel edified or renewed. As Bonhoeffer said, "The person who waits upon moods is impoverished." Meditation takes practice and commitment.

As for the "how" of meditation, Foster has some good ideas for beginners, and I highly recommend Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Meditating on the the Word. Although I've meditated before, I'm definitely still a beginner. The means I've used in the past are very simple. I have taken my Bible and read the same verses, maybe three to five, over and over again, asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand and apply the passage. The Psalms lend themselves very well to meditation and are a good starting point. I've also meditated over a short passage in a group setting, which was very interesting, and aptly proved that God can speak new wisdom to us in the most familiar passages. The other thing that I have done is to use the little notebooks pictured above. I can carry these anywhere, and they are filled with verses and a few quotes I find to be particularly poignant. Bonhoeffer said, "It is often better to read a little in the Scriptures and slowly, waiting until it has penetrated within us, than to know a great deal of God's Word but not to treasure it in our hearts."

Obviously there's a lot more to be unpacked from Foster, and elsewhere. So I'd love to know your thoughts about the book and maybe what spoke to you the most in this first discipline.

At the very least let us walk away emboldened, as Foster said: "We learn to meditate by meditating."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Vision with a Task

A vision without a task is but a dream;
a task without a vision is drudgery;
a vision with a task is the hope of the world...

I've used this quote before but it is so apt now, as I make a stab at something new. My vision for the task of reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is to spur one another on to apply the biblical principles and practical truth of this book in everyday life (here is the link to order the book). Of course, this will work best if participation is not limited to my sister and me, and I am just going to trust that some of my regular, non-commenting readers will join us.

But I also want to clarify a couple of points about this vision. It's important to know why we'd want to grow spiritually, why we'd invest time reading this book. We want to live lives more like Christ, but why? There are lots of possibilities: to represent Christ better to the non-believing world, to live with greater personal peace, or to model Christ-likeness for our children. These are reasonable motivations.

One unreasonable motivation is that right living will earn us God's favor. This is a prevalent and insidious line of thinking, but upon examination it doesn't make a lick of sense. For one thing, if it were true then God would not be entirely sovereign; we would exert some control over Him by following a list of rules. But that's absurd, and if you've been alive for a few days you've likely noticed that God's ways are not our ways, and that His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8). If this is not obvious already, perhaps a quick visit to a nearby hospital will confirm this truth. Also see the book of Job, which is brutal in its demolition of this live-it-right-and-be-blessed mentality. No, it's not about merit. God always deals with us on the basis of grace because He loves us and because we are incapable of earning anything good from a holy, perfect God.

I recently read that while some may try to acquire presents from God, the true aim is to enjoy His Presence. (M. Wayne Brown, Water from Stone).

And that's a great motivation for trying to grow spiritually, isn't it? We can enjoy His Presence. What a gift! May Celebration of Discipline aid us in unwrapping this unfathomable gift, may we lovingly spur one another on in this effort, and may the transformation of our lives be a testimony to those around us. Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love God. I 'll be praying that in the weeks to come we will know and love God more deeply, and that we will enjoy His presence more than ever before.

Next week, we'll talk about the inward disciplines. For now, God bless and happy reading.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Solving the Image Problem

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old, Will, met a boy we'll call "Joey." Will had certain expectations of Joey since the boys met in a church setting, but Joey was not the most charming of fellows. In fact, after many grievances Will was just utterly exasperated. "You know," Will said, "I'm just having difficulty believing Joey is a Christian."

Although we've had some good laughs over it, Will's disappointment actually raises some interesting questions. Why do Christians have such an image problem? And what can believers do about it?

First of all, Will is my first-born son, and I may be just a tad biased, but I love his logic, because he didn't say, "wow, that Joey is kind of a jerk, this whole Jesus thing must be a fraud." And that may sound sort of silly, but that's what a lot of people outside the church actually do. All it takes is one or two bad seeds and some people are really turned off by Christianity. Criticisms are often well-founded, and the stories which begin "I knew a Christian once who..." are common and discouraging. However, the idea of turning away from Jesus Christ based on the imperfection of His followers seriously misunderstands a vital biblical truth. The fact is, "Jesus Christ didn't come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live." (Ravi Zacharias).

So it's first and foremost about salvation, not transformation. But people, like my son, like me, like you, still expect transformation. Should we? The answer is yes. Absolutely yes. The problem is that you don't know how people started out, so you can't judge their journey, and thankfully that's not our job. Our job is a personal one: to pursue a life that glorifies God, a life that is not a stumbling block for others, a life that does not reek of hypocrisy, and one that is ever-imperfect but by God's grace improving.

I'm never going to get it just right. I'm still going to falter and sin, and disappoint people I love. I'm still going to give critics a chance to point and scoff, "Look at her and she says she's a Christ-follower!" But even though perfection is unattainable I want my life to be as Jesus-like as possible, don't you? Just think, if the millions of Americans who claim to be Christians made this their goal, surely that would solve the image problem, right? No, it wouldn't. While books like UnChristian are enlightening in terms describing the depth of the problem, there is actually no hope of fully fixing our "brand." After all Jesus was neither hypocritical nor judgmental yet His image problem eventually sent him to the cross. Jesus led a perfect life but was absolutely despised and He said we would be too. (Luke 21:17)

So two thoughts to close. First, like Paul, we need to be a little more comfortable with the world hating us. (Galations 1:10). Secondly, although hypocrisy isn't the problem, it is a problem, a big problem. So next week I'm going to start a series about living the Christian life right based on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I have never read this book in its entirety, but my goal is to tackle a couple chapters each week. I would be greatly honored if YOU would read it with me. My hope is that this series will be truly interactive. I mean what else are comments for? Why not order it right now, before you forget? Here's the link.

Until then, may we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him, and may we run the race set out for us, with grace and mercy and perseverance.