Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Goal Setting

Last week I was teaching on Philippians 3:12 where the Apostle Paul talks about his striving for and not yet having reached his goal. Paul’s talk about goal setting in the Christian life struck us as odd at first. After a little discussion we quickly realized how natural that was for Paul and how it ought to become more natural for us.
The reason it was so natural for Paul to talk about his goal in the Christian life is that his goal in his Christian life is the same as his goal in life. There is no distinction between his life in Christ and his life. There were one and the same. Paul understood himself only in terms of who he was in Christ which resulted in his serving Christ and laboring for the gospel. He didn’t have a work life (although he was a tent maker), home life, church life, financial life, family life, recreational life, and physical life. He had one life in Christ. Therefore, his goal in life was his goal for the spiritual life. Paul was a fully integrated man who sought first the kingdom of God. The result is that he organized his life around his singular goal which he hadn’t fully attained but pressed on towards and urged the Philippians to imitate him in doing.
We too are called to imitate Paul in becoming fully integrated people for whom our life in Christ is the life we live. Our being followers of Jesus should impact and shape who we are in our hearts and therefore how we act. I would say spiritual integration of our life in Christ is one of the most pressing issues facing Christians today. Too often we just don’t see the connections between who are in Christ and how we live. As a result we miss out on our calling as disciples which impacts our ability to live out our vocation and mission in the world. Missing the depth and fullness of our calling means we aren’t the fullest versions of ourselves. Sadly we don’t realize how desperately the world needs us to live into God’s call on our lives.  
One of the outcomes of being Jesus’ disciple is that we are people who are learning to routinely and regularly love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Disciples are people who are growing in their ability to will and to choose the good of their neighbor. I can’t think of anything the world needs more deeply now than people who can will and choose the good of another.
Paul says that he wants to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if I may somehow attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). This is Paul’s goal in life: to know Christ. The path of discipleship is the path to knowing Christ. This is what Paul has called us to imitate him in doing, spending our lives knowing Christ, sharing in his suffering (living a cruciform life) and being filled with resurrection power.
Our lives then become about Christ, his kingdom and his mission. This brings everything else we do intto sharp relief and becomes the compass that guides who we are and what we do.  In light of all the paths we can take this path of giving our lives to Christ is that path that leads to life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spiritual and Physical

I was on a conference call with some pastors earlier in the week and one of them made an interesting comment about the connection between our spiritual life and physical life.

He asked how is our physical being an expression of our spiritual being?

I have spent time thinking about both my spiritual life and my physical life but not a lot about the connect between the two. I am now thinking on it now but haven't made enough connection to write about it. All I know at this point is that there is a connection, but to what extent and how we live it I am not sure.

In this post I simply want to raise the question: what is the connection between our life in Christ, being created by God and how we care for our bodies?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Water Issues

Sometimes we just aren't aware of the importance of clean water in our world today. Below is a short bit of information that is worth thinking on.

Global water crisis claims more lives per year than war or natural disastersNearly a billion people -- that’s one out of seven people in our world today -- lack access to clean, safe water. Unclean water causes millions of people, especially young children, to die from water-related illnesses each year. Learn how ELCA youth can make a difference through the 100 Wells Challenge at

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spiritual Practice

How we go about our spiritual practice is important. Our world teaches us to make things complicated, hard and something only an expert can fix. We try this with our spiritual life and think that the more complex it is the more we are advancing. Advancement, if there is such an idea has more to do with simply getting to know Christ more and allowing his divine life to move and shape us. This is what Paul means when he says we are to be lead by the Spirit. That is what we are longing for, an ever growing relationship with Christ where His Spirit is at work within and through us. As we grow we come to see more fully what is already here. We see more fully God’s grace, mercy and love. It is such a full reality and one that we are called to live more deeply in. Living more deeply in grace will transform our lives and we will find that we are more gracious and loving. We become like the One who loves us and that we love in return.
Spiritual practice becomes important because to develop any relationship takes time over time. If we want to get to know someone better we need to spend time with them, learn who they are and get to know how they will be with us in various parts of our lives. Christian spiritual practice is ordering our lives around getting to know Christ more fully. We must be intentional if this is to happen. This is the work that we do, growing in the ability to order our lives around knowing Christ and serving Him.  We must keep this simple. The key is not complexity but simplicity, vulnerability and availability. We make ourselves available to Christ through prayer, scripture study, worship and service to name a few. Less is more here. It would be better to do fewer practices with an open heart then to run through a complex maze of spiritual practices with little or no awareness. All that leads to is pride and an inflated ego. No, humility in prayer is much better.
It is helpful to ask questions about our own vulnerability and availability.
How honest with God am I?  Do I want to listen and be lead? Do I share fully what is within me in prayer? In terms of bible study do I approach the text with a sense of availability? Do I want God to meet me there, to perhaps change or shape my ideas? How are my resources and time available to God and my neighbor?
Let the answers to the questions begin to shape how you order your days and time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Family Photos

Last week I was able to go to one of the islands on the northern portion of our atoll with my family. I lead a worship service up there each week and while my in-laws are here we took them and spent a little time at the beach. Below are a couple of photos from that trip.