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Discipleship, Evangelism, Life

Six Key Ingredients for Relational Evangelism

October 3, 2016

 

 

We may need to rethink our default evangelistic methods. We’re not in Judea with the Jewish people who grew up hearing about the Exodus, God’s law, and Justice. We’re in Athens, where most people assume that every god is the same god and that man is free to do as he pleases so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

The problem with cold-call, door-to-door evangelism is that we live in a world where most people don’t have the backstory of the Christian worldview. They don’t have a mental structure where that story fits any more. We still need to do it as the Spirit leads (praise God for those who are street preachers and bold evangelists!), but we also need to leverage the relationships we have. I believe that without relationally-based evangelism and it’s ability to give people long exposure to the deep truths of the Gospel, we will see significantly decreased effectiveness.

Here are six things that I believe are essential to make our relationships truly evangelistic in nature:

1. Up-front declaration of your allegiance

One of the first things you should communicate about yourself is that you’re a follower of Jesus. Not mainly that you go to church, but that your life is Jesus’. This should be done in a natural, unforced way. It should be an easy thing for us to declare our allegiance to our King. To have that happen, point two needs to be a reality.

2. A life that imitates Christ’s

Relational evangelism won’t happen if you’re living a life that’s the same as those around you. As Jesus said, “it is enough that a servant should become like his master in every way.” Michael Frost calls it “living a questionable life.”

This is one of the greatest things about relational evangelism, in my opinion. Whereas door-to-door evangelism allows a person to hide their spiritual immaturity, relationships reveal the truth. The greater your life is lived in line with Jesus’, the more effective your relational evangelism will be.

3. Powerful prayer and the miracles that result

A central part of a life that imitates Christ’s in prayer. Powerful prayer. Prayer that sees results. If we want our relationships to be calling people into God’s kingdom we need to be praying publicly for others. When a friend shares a struggle or a need with you, stop and pray for them right there. Answered prayer is one of the greatest declarations to a skeptic that our God is real. It was the early church’s miracles that confounded the skeptics and opened doors for the Gospel in places previously closed.

4. Joy in the face of negativity

One of the side effects of living in a place of prayer and connection with God the Father is joy, that beautiful fruit of the Spirit that every human longs for. Joy regardless of circumstances. You’ll have plenty of questions about the reasons for the hope you have when you can laugh in the midst of painful trials and have joy when you’re being drug down.

5. Connection to a gospel community

Relational evangelism means the weight isn’t all on you. It’s a network of relationships in which the Gospel shines brilliantly. As Leslie Newbigin wrote, the hermeneutic of the Gospel is the local body of Christ.

6. Following the Spirit’s leading

Ultimately all of this comes down to one simple thing – following the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we do that our lives imitate Christ’s because he is the spirit of Christ. We pray constantly because we have a permanent connection with the Father. We have joy because he is the fountain of joy. We can call people to Jesus because he is the one who convicts them of the truth.
But where I want to point us to particularly is those moments when the Spirit calls us to do something that doesn’t make sense, seems risky, or totally out of left field. Maybe you’ve been developing a friendship and the person is extremely anti-Christian, so you’re worried that they might respond negatively if you clearly call them to repent of sin and put their faith in Christ. Set aside those worries. If the Holy Spirit is calling you to take the risk and lay out the Gospel clearly, do it. If he’s calling you to stop and pray for a stranger on the street, do it. Take risks, follow the Spirit’s lead, and watch as the relationships you have turn into an infinite array of opportunities for people to encounter Jesus and receive the salvation that he so freely offers.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Life

God in Autumn

September 22, 2016

 

 

 

I’ve started wearing a jacket and gloves when I bike to work each morning, sure evidence that fall is here. As days get shorter we’re entering my favorite time of year. There’s something beautifully crisp and lively about fall, and I was reveling in the beginning hints of my favorite season during my ride this morning.

There’s something holy about reveling in God’s creation. The Psalmist spends nearly 30 verses doing so in Psalm 104, line after line detailing the miraculousness of this earth. From the fact that the waters don’t cover the dry land to the fact that God provides food from the ground for animals and “wine that gladdens human hearts” (v.14) to the mysterious terrors of the oceans and death “when you take away their breath,” (v.29) the Psalmist uses creation as a lens to focus and sharpen his joy so that at the close of the Psalm he can declare “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Let’s take a cue from the Psalmist as we enter fall. As leaves go from green to a dozen shades of orange, red, and brown and as we don sweaters and scarves, let’s make space for reveling in what God has given us in this earth. That reveling will inevitably lead us to take joy in the Lord.

Rather than constantly rushing from one thing to the next in the next week, set aside some moments to go for a leisurely stroll. Head to a state park. Bundle up and go star gazing. Don’t rush it. Look at the details of this creation and be amazed by it. Think about the fact that the trees you’re seeing live off dirt, air, and sunlight; that you’re on a ball twirling through space at thousands of miles an hour; that your body somehow miraculously takes what you ate for lunch and turns it into energy that enables you to walk, breath, talk, think, and read this. As you revel, watch as your soul declares “Lord my God, you are very great”!
Take the time to get in nature this week, particularly if you are feeling depressed and burdened. There’s a reason why the Psalmist is able to end his Psalm with joy. As Charles Spurgeon declared,

He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.

Get out of the house, apartment, cubicle, and car. Go enjoy a tree. A field. The open sky. Let them teach your heart to sing. The Psalmist prays, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works” (v.31). Let’s join the Lord in that rejoicing this fall.

 

 

 

Journal, Life, Parenting

Twelve Things You Don’t Do As a Parent of a One Month Old

August 26, 2016

 

 

Micah’s just over a month old, which means Kelly and I have been practicing this parenting thing for somewhere around 35 days. We’ve learned a lot. Last night as I sloowwwly laid Micah down, praying that the last four hours of trying to getting him to sleep would be over and he would stay asleep, I marvelled at just how many things two people can not get done when you have a baby on your hands. I laughed as I mentally scrolled through our undone to dos. So I made a list. For those who have had kids, you’ll get it. For those who haven’t yet, take note. Get stuff done now. You won’t later

Things you don’t do as a parent of a one month old:

  1. Shower more than once a week
  2. Clean all the dishes
  3. Get out of the house in less than 20 minutes
  4. Sleep for longer than two hours
  5. Have an in-depth conversation
  6. Watch more than half a movie
  7. Have sex
  8. Freak out about being peed on
  9. Write that book you’ve been working on
  10. Get to work early
  11. Fix the laptop that’s been broken for the last month
  12. Cook a full meal

 

Good news though – getting stuff done isn’t what life’s about. Jesus has done more than enough to satisfy any to-do list that we could ever place in front of ourselves, and God’s relational nature declares clearly that there is far more value in pouring love out for another human being while your kitchen counters disappear under dishes and your body odor builds to a crescendo than there is in keeping things spotless.

When you have kids, regardless of their age, they’re going to inconvenience you and force you to change your plans. You’ll probably get less than half of what you wanted to get done done. But what you will get in return is the beauty of shaping a soul that will bring much greater glory to the Lord than any amount of productivity ever could.

That said, I really need a shower.

 

photo credit: Grace Noelle Photo

Journal, Life, Parenting

Parenting and Shrinking Joys

August 18, 2016

 

 

 

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
– Philippians 4:12-13

 

Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.
– Chesterton, Orthodoxy

 

It’s been nearly a month since our son Micah was born. Crazy how fast the past few weeks have gone.Leading up to his birth I’d had this expectation of some explosive revelation moment when we first met our boy. I’d heard so frequently that having a kid gives you a deeper understanding of God’s love for us, and apparently I’d figured that realization would come all in a rush there and then when we held him for the first time.

Maybe for some people it does. For me it didn’t. And, in all honesty, the last few weeks really haven’t been particularly enjoyable. Oh, there have been beautiful moments, but the vast majority of our time is spent feeling somewhat inadequate and frustrated as we try to to figure out feeding schedules, how to get a little human to fall asleep, how to do everything one-handed while holding a baby, how to operate on 4 or so hours of sleep a night, etc.

The first weeks of parenting aren’t particularly rewarding on a human level. Oh sure, we’ve got a really cute little human to hold whenever we want to, but all the work that comes with it is just hard. There’s a reason why more and more people are opting to have children later or not at all. It costs a lot, financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I still haven’t had a huge moment of revelation or anything, yet as I sat next to Micah several nights ago watching him sleep, praying over his life to come and that Kelly and I would survive to see it, I realized how much my view of the world had changed and just how good that is.

Things have shrunk. Our joys and pleasures have become much smaller than they were. That may sound like a negative thing, but I don’t think it is.

The world’s expectation

The world tells us that our pleasures should always be increasing in size, scope, and intensity. This year you went on a vacation to Florida for a week. Next year you should take a two week vacation to Hawaii. The relationship you were just in was good, so you shouldn’t settle for anything less than amazing in the next one. We’re trained to be disappointed if our future experiences don’t outdo our past ones.

A prime example of this is seen in the continual increase of large, explosive scenes in the movies that we watch. Contrast the slow, intricate emotional impact of Twelve Angry Men, a film from 1957 that takes place almost completely in one room, with the city-destroying explosions and two-second cuts of the recent Avengers films. We expect the next spectacle to outdo the previous, or we feel disappointed.

The problem with this is that it burns our senses out, increasingly numbing us to the daily pleasures of life. If you’re used to the explosions and constant action, the pace of films from 20 years ago seems lethargic and boring. We build up a resistance to experiences just like we do to drugs or alcohol.

There’s a reason why billionaires still search for satisfaction despite the fact they can buy anything they want.

What these first weeks of parenthood have taught me is that the small joys bring lasting pleasure. The grand, world shaking ones fade away in an instant.

God of the shrinking joys

In stark contrast to the world, God seems to delight in drawing us into smaller and smaller joys so that the grander things seem ever greater. Witness Elijah’s experience of God speaking through the small, still voice rather than the whirlwind. The quiet encounter made the nation-shaping miracles seem all the more powerful.

Whereas previously a great night for Kelly and I was going out to eat, watching a movie, and staying up late it’s now several minutes of quiet with Micah asleep before we go to bed. A weekend trip has been replaced with the smaller joy of two hours out to eat when grandma comes to watch the baby.

Pleasures have shrunk, but not lessened. The things that were becoming for us commonplace are now precious. We are being taught to take joy in small things and as a result the big things become even bigger and more wonderful. As G.K. Chesterton says, it is limitations that make art art, and therefore beautiful.

Don’t buy this world’s demand that you always need more than you currently have. Instead zoom the frame in, shrink your joys into the concentrated power of simple pleasures and learn to delight in the nuances and small gifts that God showers upon us each day. Attempting to constantly increase the grandeur of your pleasures will drain you and leave you empty. Embracing the God of shrinking joys will lead, ultimately, to eternal pleasure and joy.

As I sat there next to Micah’s tiny sleeping form and soaked in the joy of a peaceful moment, two weeks of a thousand frustrating moments melted away. I am, indeed, learning to be content in all circumstances, and in that there is great reward.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Faith, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fear vs. Faith: A framework for decision making

June 13, 2016

 

 

 

 

Life is basically just one long series of decisions. For those who are followers of Christ we long deeply for those decisions to be ones that glorify our creator and Savior. Some decisions are clearly right and wrong, and we navigate those with general ease. Or at the very least know how we should navigate them. The tension comes when we encounter decisions where God’s word doesn’t give direct instruction and where we may not be feeling a specific lead from the Holy Spirit.

I want to offer a simple, effective framework for navigating that kind of decision in your life. First the basis for this framework, then the framework itself.

Fear or Faith

In the 14th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul makes a massive statement; “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (14:23b) If this statement is to be taken at face value – which I believe it is, judging by the scripture-wide emphasis on faith as the thing which pleases God most – then that means that every act we do that isn’t prompted by faith is, in some way, a sin.

The opposite of faith is fear. Fear is self-focused, faith is God-focused. Fear is about security and control, faith is about trust and obedience. Fear is timid, faith is bold. Faith takes God at His word, fear looks at the circumstances and gathers doubt.

I want you to choose to live in faith rather than fear. When you come to a difficult decision and are unsure what to do, ask yourself this question: “Which of these options is choosing faith?” Choose that one, no matter what. We don’t want to be people who take the path of least resistance. We want to be the people who walk the path that carries us increasingly closer to Christ.

Live in Faith

The funny thing is, the same outward action that comes from faith in one person could be coming from fear in another. To help better grasp how this works out, let’s look at a couple examples and contrast how choosing in faith vs. choosing in fear plays out.

  • It’s Friday. A few co-workers are going to the bar after work and they invite you along. You choose to go.
    • Faith: You chose to go despite the fact that you don’t feel comfortable in bars because you believe that God wants you to love and minister to your coworkers, and you want to get to know them better.
    • Fear: You chose to go because you didn’t want to be seen as an outsider or a goodie two-shoes.
  • You’re frustrated with your significant other because of something they keep doing even though you’ve mentioned that it bothers you several times already. You decide to keep quiet about it.
    • Faith: You chose to be quiet and trust that they care for you and probably aren’t doing it intentionally, so you’ll trust the Spirit to remind them this time.
    • Fear: You chose to be quiet because you didn’t want to start an argument or appear to be nagging or have them be frustrated with you.
  • A person who drains you called this morning and left a message, asking you to call them back. You put it off for a few hours, then call them back.
    • Faith: You chose to call them back because you trust that God will give you the emotional energy to deal with whatever the situation is.
    • Fear: You called them back because you were worried about what they’d think of you if you didn’t, and because you’d feel like you weren’t being Christian enough.

There are a thousand more examples that could be laid out before us. But you don’t need them, because you have the Holy Spirit in you. When you ask which option in the decision you’re making is choosing faith, he’ll let you know. Step into it. We make decision after decision every day, and each one is an opportunity to step further into faith in God or backwards into fear. Let’s make faith our daily choice, no matter what the cost. It will be well worth it in the end.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Culture, Life

Facebooking while the world burns

March 28, 2016

 

 

The internet has both distanced us and brought us closer to what’s taking place around the world. We have almost invasive awareness of news that even fifty years ago would have barely touched at the edges of our attention. At the same time we have exponentially increasing demands on our attention from thousands of trivial things from Vine compilations of the cutest kittens meeting puppies for the first time (who has time to compile these things anyways?) to a myriad of mobile games (Hearthstone, anyone?) to twenty articles that say the exact same thing about Starbucks cups and Donald Trump.

The constant barrage of world news isn’t a bad thing. The question is, what do we do with it? When the news of dozens killed or wounded in Brussels flows through our feed, accompanied by strident reminders that Brussels isn’t the only event of its kind in the last week, how should we respond? When heart-tugging photos of Syrian refugees fill the screen, along with opinions about whether they should be allowed here or there or anywhere else, what should we do?

With the massive amount of information at our fingertips our default has become calloused minimal interest. Glance, absorb, and move on. Read, comment, forget. Such cool evaluation and response is dangerous for the soul and raises the ire of the God who created the human beings that we so quickly pass over.

Listen to God’s words to the elite of Israel in their comfort and ease, casually absorbing the news of tragedy around them and moving on:

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
Go to Kalneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
– Amos 6

“Woe to you who are complacent…to you who feel secure.”

If I’m honest with myself, that’s me. If I look around at the people I spend most of my time with here in Fargo, that’s us. We’re safe and secure. Terrorists wouldn’t target little ol’ Fargo, right? Tsunami’s won’t happen here. Earthquakes are incredibly unlikely. Our worries are generally something along the lines of whether it will be really cold this winter (it will) and if our car will start if it does get really cold (it might not). In our security we embrace complacency and slowly, silently our souls are crushed.

“You lie on beds adorned with ivory…You strum away on your harps”

Here we are, sitting on our plush couches watching Netflix, simultaneously flipping through our favorite social media outlet’s feed. Here we are, enjoying song after song via Spotify and eating at any of the dozens of restaurants within a ten minute drive from our home. Lounging, eating, and singing while the world around us explodes, is shot, sleeps on the roadside, and begs for food.

“Go to Kalneh and look at it”

God’s words for those who sit in comfort, blissfully and intentionally ignorant of the pain around them are no easy words. “Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.” Now, clearly we are not Israel. These words of the Lord shouldn’t be taken as a promise that if we don’t act God’s going to put America in a situation similar to Syria. They do, however, give us significant insight into God’s desire for his people, reinforced by the example of Jesus and the way he refused to shy back from the pain of the world.

My friends, we need to refuse to turn our faces aside; to refuse to scroll past too quickly. Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, wrote in Ecclesiastes 7,

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Don’t block out the pains of this earth. In a world where thousands of means of entertainment combine with a deluge of information to callous our hearts, we must intentionally engage our emotions when we are exposed to the hardships around us. Rather than moving on so quickly we must slow down and leverage the tools God has given us to empathize with those who are hurting.

Here’s a couple quick, easy ways that we can do this;

  • Use your imagination and put yourself in the refugee’s shoes before you post an opinion on what should be done with them.
  • “Go to Kalneh” by reading background information on the countries and people you hear about so you know at least some of the story.
  • Skip the latest Walking Dead episode or the newest superhero movie and instead read a novel that tells the story of someone who’s gone through hardship.
  • Get off your couch, shut off your music, and go meet some real people who are in need. Volunteer at a homeless shelter for an hour or two. Befriend some refugees.

If we are to be full followers of Christ then, like him, we must refuse to avoid the hard things of this world. We can’t avoid the pain. We need to learn to engage our emotions fully and respond with compassion. Most of us aren’t able to physically go to Belgium or Syia or Pakistan, and most of us don’t have the connections to make on-the-ground changes in those places of pain, but we can all refuse to lounge, eat, and Facebook while the world burns, instead turning our prayers and passions more in line with the heart of our great God who calls his people to be ambassadors of his kingdom to everywhere that there is brokenness and hurt.

 

 

 

Culture, Life, Spiritual Warfare

Fear Not

March 2, 2016

 
We live in an age of terror. Where fifty years ago the average person’s main news outlets were the local newspaper, a few radio stations, and word of mouth, today we’re standing in the middle of dozens of channels of global news. We’re inundated with the flood of horror stories from around the globe and across our country. Video of ISIS murdering dozens in Syria, a barrage of articles about armed stand offs within our own country, radio discussions about rogue nations testing possible nuclear warheads, and plenty more. The world is increasingly operating on a foundation of fear.

Nowhere is this more clear than the current American presidential race. The vast majority of political candidates are using fear as the main driver for their campaigns. Be afraid of muslims and vote for me because I’ll keep you safe. Be afraid of financial collapse. Be afraid of the establishment. Be afraid of the rich and the banks. Be afraid of the future. Fear is, sadly, the politician’s most effective tool.

Hard truth time. If your mind is filled more with fear and worry than faith and worship, you’re dishonoring God.

Every day we’re given hundreds of reasons to live in fear. And, to the delight of the Devil, fear and worry have become the default for many Jesus followers. We, like the world we live in, get swept away by the torrent and fall prey to Satan’s attacks, forgetting that, as the Apostle Paul writes, “true love casts out fear.”

When we partner with fear and let it direct our thoughts, we’re denying God and affirming the evil one. I want to take one verse and three key moments in Jesus’ life and remind you today that you literally have no good reason to live in fear. As George Whitfield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” What do those who are invincible and immortal have to fear?

There’s a moment early on in Jesus’ ministry where he’s teaching a crowd of Israelites and they get so ferociously angry at his words that they try to arrest him in order to kill him. John summarizes the moment by writing, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 8:20). Note that last sentence; “because his hour had not yet come.”

Safe from arrest

These seven words make a massive statement about just how secure our lives are. Jesus couldn’t be arrested because his hour had not yet come. The Father had a time set for his arrest, and it wasn’t then. No matter how vicious the crowd, no matter how fiercely they desired his arrest, Jesus could stand unafraid because his hour had not yet come and until his hour came he was invincible.

We serve the same God that Jesus did. He has the same care and power in our lives. No matter what the political reality of the present or future may be, no matter how viciously people oppose us, no matter how angry others may be, we are utterly safe. We have nothing to fear, because God is good.

Safe from Satan

Later in his ministry as he nears his betrayal and murder, Jesus says to his disciples,

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:30-31)

Catch that? Jesus calmly notifies his followers that Satan is coming for him, but he’s not afraid. The devil has no claim on him. Oh, he’ll go along with things and be crucified, but not in fear. He goes to the cross in faith, “so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

If you are a follower of Jesus you have the same Spirit that he did. You can, by faith, say with equal boldness, “the ruler of this world has no claim on me” and face even the most potent of demonic opposition without giving an inch to fear.

Safe in death

The story doesn’t stop there though, as you probably know. Jesus goes forward in love and is crucified. He dies, but even in death Jesus doesn’t give way to fear. He is utterly confident that his Father is sovereign even over the power of death. Jesus is just as safe in death as he was in that moment at the outset of his ministry when the Jews wanted to arrest him.

You too, like Jesus, can face even death with confidence. Paul writes in Romans that those who are connected with Jesus will surely be resurrected like him. Even in dying you’re secure.

Here’s the deal, my friends- fear focuses on the situation; faith focuses on the savior. We live in a world that says “be afraid, be very afraid!” ten thousand times a day. We have a savior who has said, “Do not be afraid, I am with you always” and proven it a million times over. Whose story are you going to buy? What kind of life are you going to live?

I for one don’t want to let fear define how I live. I want to be a love promoter, bold and laughing in the face of fear because I know my Father is the one with all the power. He has all the power and he’s promised that he’s going to use it for the good of everyone who have put their faith in Jesus. Get on board. Build your anchor on Christ, the firm foundation. Set aside all worry and doubt and trembling and embrace the truth; if you’re in Jesus, God loves you and is for you. You’re invincible. What do you have to worry about?

 

 

 

Christian Life, Life, Spiritual Growth

Christmas and the Discipline of Satisfaction

December 21, 2015

Welcome to the season of dissatisfaction. Unwrap your presents and prepare to be disappointed. You received a sweater rather than that IPhone 6s, car, Ps4, 75 inch 4k TV, and that new best friend you’ve been wanting.

We live in a world built around selling us on the fact that we’re not happy. The internet itself is, often times, just a tool to make us covet and therefore buy more. Facebook makes millions (4.5 million just last quarter) off being a platform to help advertisers target you with things more likely to make you dissatisfied. YouTube plays you the ads that Google’s algorithms have determined are going to make you want more than you currently have.

In the age of the internet Proverbs 27:20 rings truer than ever before. “Death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.” Pinterest, Instagram, and the hundreds of other boutiques, streaming services, and deal sites are money-making testimonies to the truth of those words. Our eyes – our desires – are never satisfied by getting more.

During this holiday season I don’t want us to buy the lie that having more stuff is going to bring us satisfaction. Satisfaction isn’t something that we purchase or stumble into. Satisfaction is a discipline; something that takes the same kind of practice that a sport or instrument or new language does. Our ability to be satisfied is a reflection of our ability to engage fully in the moment with the thing or person that we’re interacting with. It’s a product of giving thanks. In a world where technology is training us to be only partially engaged, and marketing is more and more effectively pushing away thanksgiving, it takes serious engage and give thanks.
G.K. Chesterton said, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to his protege Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6)
Let’s take intentional steps in these next two weeks leading up to Christmas and into the new year to train ourselves for satisfaction and contentment. Here are a couple ways that I plan to do so. Will you join me?

1.Cut out satisfaction-suckers.

Over the last year or so I’ve gotten in the habit of checking a couple deal sites and apps far too frequently throughout the day. It’s led to me getting a lot of really great deals on things that we really don’t need. In order to practice the discipline of satisfaction I’m committing to looking at those sites only once a day, and even then not until the evening so that I don’t start my day by cultivating covetousness. Maybe for you it’s home improvement or cooking shows. Whatever it is, cut out the things that suck your satisfaction.

2.Engage fully with what you’re doing.

Shut off the phone during dinner. Get in a deep conversation and get to know someone better. Set the phone aside and watch the movie or show with full attention. Get lost in a book. Turn off the radio and observe what you’re driving by. Engage fully. Appreciate what is and what you do have by experiencing it completely.

3.Give away what you’re not using

Do as Chesterton suggests and start desiring less by giving away things that you have that you’re not using. Have some clothes you never wear? Give them to a friend or donate them. DVDs on your shelf that you haven’t watched in years? Give them away. Extra coats in the closet? Find someone who needs one and give it to them.

4.Speak thanks for what you have

Take an inventory of the things that you have and speak out thanks for them. Thank the person who gave them to you, even if it was years ago. Thank the God who created the things. Write out what you’re thankful for and come back to it periodically.

 

Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Let’s not settle for anything less than the contentment and satisfaction that come in Christ this Christmas. Don’t buy into the foolish belief that more of the same new, shiny, and expensive will satisfy. Let’s take the time to practice and train for satisfaction here in 2015 and beyond.

 

 

 

 

Journal, Life

27 things I’m thankful for

November 25, 2015

I turned 27 last Friday and tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so it seemed very appropriate to continue a tradition that I started a couple years ago of writing out down some of the things I’ve been particularly thankful for in the past year or so. This list is in no particular order, but each one of the things on it is something that I genuinely, frequently praise God for.

  1. Kelly. I love having a wife who I can work hard and have a ton of fun with. After three years of marriage I’m even more confident that she’s beautiful and awesome.
  2. Community. My extroverted self loves the fact that I’m surrounded by a rich community of people who support, love, and serve each other.
  3. Airplanes. This past January Kelly and I, along with another couple, got to jet across the world to spend a month in Sri Lanka and India. Without airplanes that trip wouldn’t have been possible.
  4. Health. On that trip I got sick with Dengue fever. It could have been real bad, but God answered people’s prayers and has healed me and kept me in full health.
  5. Technology that allows for instant communication. It’s so crucial for our ministry in Verge and my day to day work, not to mention keeping up with friends scattered across the country.
  6. A flexible job. I’m so blessed by my manager and my position at arvato and the fact that they work with my ministry schedule and allow me to be one of the very few part time employees.
  7. Our supporters. Working part time wouldn’t make ends meet for Kelly and I. I’m awed by the generosity of those who support us in prayer and finance and enable us to do ministry.
  8. Family that supports us, financially and otherwise. Both Kelly and I are blessed with families that love Jesus and encourage us often.
  9. Salem Evangelical Free Church. Pastors and staff who have a true heart for the kingdom of God have helped sustain me through difficult moments in ministry. Thanks to each of you for your wisdom.
  10. A great team. Lance, Blake, Andy, Jenn, and Vanessa – I’m thankful for each of you and the role you play in Verge. Thanks for letting me be a part of the team.
  11. New Music. There’s not much better than discovering a new song that catches your heart. Particularly ones that lay out a new revelation of God’s character.
  12. Threshingfloor’s leaders. Nate, Erik, Paul, Liz, Luke – without you guys this wouldn’t happen.
  13. Food from other cultures. American food is kind of boring.
  14. Books. If you know me at all you know this one is a given.
  15. Brandon Sanderson. Speaking of books, this guy is one of the best fantasy writers out there.
  16. Writing. Along with loving books, I love being able to write. Someday I’ll finish a novel and maybe catch up to Brandon Sanderson.
  17. The patience of God. I mean really, He’s patiently walked with me through 27 years of foolishness. So grateful.
  18. Humble people. It’s incredibly refreshing to minister to and serve people who are humble enough to learn. I want to be more like them.
  19. That this life is not the end. There’s a whole eternity in front of us! All the suffering, pain, and trouble that’s here won’t carry over.
  20. Getting started. After 27 years of life, I’m just getting started. God’s got a ton more for me to see, learn, and do. I love knowing that there’s greater things yet to come.
  21. Jesus who loves people. I’m thankful for a savior who actually has affection for the people of this world.
  22. People who love Jesus. They’re the best. There’s something about Jesus people that is so rich and peaceful and welcoming.
  23. Soccer. Because it’s the best sport ever.
  24. God being in charge. Not ISIS, not the UN, not Obama. God’s the one who’s in charge and directing the course of history. That means I don’t have to worry.
  25. Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. This thrift store is dangerously close to our apartment, but it’s supplied us with some excellent home furniture and plenty of great books.
  26. Getting to lead. What an honor! I’m hugely thankful for the opportunity to get to lead people further into Christ.
  27. You. You read this list of 27 things that some random guy is thankful for. You’re awesome. Thanks for reading!
Christian Life, Fallout Revisited, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: The Long Road

November 16, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that takes posts from The Everlasting Fallout’s five years of history and brings back to the light of day. This post was originally written May 26, 2011. The original post can be found here.

 

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God often seems to take his people on circuitous routes rather than the straight and simple way in order to reach their destination. Israel is led through the desert for an entire generation before reaching their promised land. David is anointed king and flees from Saul for years before finally receiving his rightful place upon the throne. Even Jesus spent nearly 30 years on earth before even beginning his ministry.

Why this slow, painstaking process rather than a single miraculous moment? From the grand picture of scripture it appears that God cares more about who a person is than he does about their accomplishing a certain goal. Character comes before achievement in the kingdom of heaven, and the Lord desires to see Christ’s glory formed in his people more than he desires to see his people achieve things that are glorious by earthly standards.

The sovereign Lord uses even our sin and mistakes to conform our character to that of Christ. When Romans 8 declares,

all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The apostle truly means all things. Israel’s desert years taught them the foolishness and danger of doubting an all-powerful God and allowed them to see their own sinfulness and God’s power to preserve. David’s years of waiting, hiding, and being pursued by his enemies taught him the patience needed to be king and grew his character into a man who would lead Israel well. Jesus’ life on earth prepared for us a righteous life not our own so that we might truly called “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) and “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do not despair, my friends. Though you see ten thousand easier roads all about you, our gracious God is guiding every circumstance and step to cultivate you as one of his children. He is the perfect husbandman, guarding and feeding his flock, pruning and watering his plants, and in all things showing his good and perfect love. Your faith is more precious than gold or many jewels, and he will use any and all means in his infinite wisdom to refine that faith and character so that, though you may suffer and struggle for a moment here on this earth, you will rejoice with unspeakable joy as you receive the promised glorious salvation (1 Peter 1). Do not fear a long and treacherous road, for the Lord will be with you and will do good to you every step of the way.