Today I have the honor of guest posting over at Living the Story. I highly recommend following the blog of Thomas Mason (he recently guest posted here), especially if you want an open and unvarnished looking at walking in faith.
Have you ever noticed that life has a tendency of tossing us curveballs and hand grenades?
Life even has the audacity to lay out two or three options that we need to pick from, choices that will forever alter our pilgrimage in this life. Things like,
Having a child.
Moving across the country or state.
Leaving a job.
To be overly dramatic: sometimes if we don’t change, we die.
Read the rest here. Hope to see you there!
Today I have the privilege of guest posting over at Incite Faith. Here is a snippet of what you’ll find:
If you could compete in any Olympic event what would it be?
If I had to pick, I would go with downhill skiing and curling. Yes, curling.
Curling is chess on ice with a lot of strategy and thinking through the shots. I imagine if I wanted to become good at this game I would need a lot of hours of practice on the ice, strategically placing these stones along the frigid surface.
When it comes to playing sports and games, practicing is really a no brainer. You simply need to practice to succeed and hopefully with enough practice you will do well at your task.
In his first letter, the Apostle John wrote about a practice of a different sport. No, not wrestling or javelin throwing, instead it’s practicing our sinning and righteousness.
Check out the rest of the post here. Hope to see you there!
Today I have the privilege of introducing a blogger friend of mine Thomas Mason. I have been encouraged by his open and honest writing style over the past months that I’ve known him. Thomas blogs over at Living the Story and you can follow him on Twitter @thomas__mason.
Who can figure God out?
First, He says His people need to be holy and set apart from sin. Then He says that a man who was an adulterer, murderer and admittedly poor father is a man after His own heart?
So which is it? How can both be true?
Perhaps we should ask just what it means to be a man (or woman) after God’s heart, for that is something for which we all should aspire. Obviously we’re not talking about sinless perfection. Paul seems to come the closest to this in the New Testament, who clearly wasn’t sinless, either — before or after salvation.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PERSON AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART?
I think it means having a heart the same as God’s. It is having our desires, our motives, our goals, our values and our priorities line up with God’s. It means loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and looking at life as He looks at life. It is having His biblical worldview of things in our minds and His love or righteousness and hate of sin in our hearts. You may see it differently, but in effect, it means being like Jesus. That is God’s ultimate goal for all of us — to be more Christ-like.
So can we be a person who is after God’s own heart but still sin? Of course we can. John clearly reminds us that we won’t stop sinning (1 John 1:8-10), and Paul experienced this in his life as well (Romans 7). That means that you and I can be after God’s own heart. After all, a heart is internal, so it’s not external actions God is most concerned about. Just being like God externally is hypocrisy and we know how God feels about that. But if our hearts beat with His heart, for the things His heart beats for, then we are after God’s own heart.
What a wonderful goal in life, what a worthy dream to follow, to have a heart like God. That should be the desire of each of us. What could be better than to have the mind of Christ and the heart of God?
How can we apply this to our life? What can we do to be more like David, a “man after God’s own heart”?
HERE ARE 6 WAYS TO HAVE A HEART LIKE GOD:
Honoring and obeying God should be the first thing we do, not the last thing we think of.
Photo Credit: jasminedelilah, Creative Commons
I have the privilege to bring back a blogger-friend who has taught me a lot through her work. Julie Caulder blogs over at “Incite Faith” and her passion is finding redemption in brokenness. I have learned a lot through her transparent writings, and I highly recommend subscribing to her blog Incite Faith. Follow her on Twitter @InciteFaith
The beginning of 2014 marked a milestone in my life and career, I was promoted. A career was never a word in my vocabulary, I had no real plans for a career, only being led where God wanted me. I was conflicted with accepting my promotion. One part of me felt I didn’t deserve it another felt it was owed to me after everything I’ve been through in the past two years both personally and financially. I prayed continuously for a year and half straight for an opened door and opportunity professionally never knowing God was going to provide. Yet, I still felt conviction for accepting it and allowing the success go to my head.
I could feel the pride in my heart and it completely wrecked me. I needed to take a step back and realize being promoted was less about me and more of what God was purposely doing in my life to display His glory. God wants to see good things happen for His children but not until they’ve been through test and trial and learn to be faithful with little.It’s when God’s children learn to be faithful with little when stripped of everything they learn to rely on Him through everything.
Over the past two years, I’ve been through unemployment in my family and having to provide for all three of us, I’ve been through abuse, mental and verbal, and I’ve had my savings depleted. But all these things never made me waver in my faith, it only made me seek God more.
We are only successful when we are earnestly seeking Him first in everything because God’s plan for our life never guarantees success. It’s how we are living our lives when He graciously gives and takes away. We will never be successful when we’re relying on our own strength or believing we’re entitled to any of His blessings. When we place our will before His and center our life around self than Him, we are sinning.
Everything in life must never be done out of selfishness but with humility. My promotion is not about me, it’s about what God wants to do through me in my workplace. He has called and equipped me for something beyond my scope of understanding.
As God’s children, we must always guard God and others more important than ourselves. Daily, through His love, we must serve others regardless of our position or environment.
He must become greater; I must become less.”
Do you care more about success or being a servant of Christ?
I have the privilege to bring back a blogger-friend who has taught me a lot through her work. Julie Caulder blogs over at “Incite Faith” and her passion is finding redemption in brokenness. I have learned a lot through her transparent writings, and I highly recommend subscribing to her blog Incite Faith. More on her follows this post.
As 2014 approached, I told myself I wasn’t make any new year resolutions. While I appreciate the effort most people put towards making them, if we’re honest, resolutions don’t last. For the past few years, my only resolve was to draw closer to God. God always shows up to remind me of His truth and what He’s been telling me lately has brought both fear and comfort. Fear in knowing our days are numbered but comfort knowing we’re only promised today and need to make the most of today and right now.
God’s Word is absolute and stands firm through waves of uncertainty, insecurity, and trial. Most of us either deny His truth or don’t spend enough time meditating on it to take His Word seriously.
Everything He has spoken clearly to me brings both joy and pain. It’s been through a discerning spirit God has revealed what most of us spend our life ignoring. Our days are numbered. If we let this truth sink into the depths of our core, we wouldn’t make resolutions, goals, or resolve to do better at anything, we’d start right now this very moment.
Last year, I told myself I’d write more, be a better friend, and be more intentional. I hardly wrote, though I made friends, I wasn’t intentional with everyone I needed to be. Looking back on last year, I failed. I failed at everything. I allowed myself to become distracted and busy. I allowed myself to miss the point of why I’m here, why we’re all here; To put God first above everything and then walk with others loving them the way His son loves us.
All we have is right now and we need to seize every moment and live it like it’s our last. Jesus seized every moment and so should we.
The more I think about the fragility of life and how numbered our days are, I’m more aware of what I need to say and do to others who have impacted my life. Before we know it, time will pass and so will our life. Things we promise ourselves to do now may not be accomplished tomorrow, they’ll be left undone. All we have is the breath of today.
12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Julie Caulder has a passion for people and meeting them where they are in their struggle. She believes in the power of transparent community and in God’s redemptive grace. Her life motto is: “Love God, Love Others, Go!” You can connect with Julie on Twitter @InciteFaith
Today I have the privilege of introducing Porter Taylor. Porter is an Anglican priest that I met at Fuller Seminary and admire his insights into the faith. Although we are in the season of Christmastide, I hope you can also cling onto the tension found in his Advent piece. Who is Porter? Husband. Daddy. Disciple. Bishop’s Deputy. ManU fanatic. Nerd. He loves to preach, teach, write and read.
Follow him on Twitter @PorterCTaylor.
As disciples of Jesus we live in a world of perpetual tension – a tension made real by our identity as resurrection people. Advent is a time to bring this tension to the forefront of our lives as we are forced to both look back to Jesus’ first Advent as a babe in swaddling clothes and also forward to his second coming when he will indeed put all things to rights. It is on the significance and scope of this second Advent which I would like to focus our short time together.
As people of the resurrection we live in the tension of the “already but not yet.” In the shadow of the cross we know that Jesus has inaugurated his kingdom and yet it has not fully been consummated and realized. However, things in this world are not as they should be. Death, violence, injustice, greed, and much more continue to grab news headlines and occupy our attention. But it will not always be that way, not in God’s kingdom…
Luke 4 and Matthew 11 record phrasings of Isaiah’s comments about the year of the Lord. Jesus proclaims that he is the anointed one and that his works of healing the sick, the blind, the brokenhearted and many more are proof that God is at work. These signs of Jesus’ first advent will be normative of life in his kingdom as his second. There will be no more tears, no more pain or suffering, no more death. We will live and reign with God and he will be our all in all. We will seem him clearly whereas now we only see through a mirror dimly lit.
Being Advent people means that we wait. Being a Resurrection people means that we hope. Being a people who embrace tension means that our hopeful waiting can and must propel us into action, joining God where his Spirit is currently at work in the world and putting into practice the behaviors that are characteristic of God’s kingdom. Suddenly matters of truthtelling, creation care, hospitality, loving-kindness, stewardship and sharing God’s forgiveness are no longer ethereal dreams but are instead the core of who we are and what we do.
As you reflect and prepare your hearts this Advent, do so with the full knowledge that God is who he says he is and that he will accomplish all he has promised. He has promised not to leave us as orphans, he has promised to return again, and he has promised to usher in his kingdom in new creation. To some the term “not yet” may seem negative, but to me it is a term of hope because I know the joy we will experience when the not yet becomes the now. We must look back and forward at the same time – not losing sight of the other, not relaxing the tension – in order to give thanks for what he has done and anticipate what he will do!
How do you hold onto the “already” and “not yet?”
I again have the great privilege of posting over at Incite Faith. This is a personal topic for me, where I unload on what happens when my heart aches.
Do you ever have those moments when your heart is heavy? When you don’t know quite what to say about your heart or what to think about it anymore?
It seems as if my heart calls out for something more, something beyond what I can see or feel. There is a yearning that can be captured through the great poets of humanity. For me it is an aching that is captured in the cries of hope amid uncertainty from the psalmist, and in the haunting lyrics of Mumford & Sons or U2.
To read more, visit Incite Faith.
I have again been given the great privilege to guest post at Incite Faith this week. This month, I wrote on the importance of my story in light of God’s story. Even though my tale might not be fit for the silver screen, it is precious in the eyes of God.
In Evangelical circles, there is great emphasis placed on our personal testimonies of faith. Often times in church settings, we will hear tales of recovering drug addicts, sexaholics, abusers of power, and gang members coming to Jesus. But for someone like me, raised in a stable home and never venturing too far from the beaten trail, I felt like my story was more bland, and I was embarrassed about my story. With so many other tales of how the Spirit brought someone into the family of God, I often felt like I was vanilla. I felt as if I was a boring, old flavor that needed to be apologized for in the world of interesting stories. But dear reader, know that even a seemingly unsexy story of faith is still important in God’s eyes.
After a lot of anguish in preparing for this camp, I came to the conclusion that my testimony is not there to brag about my experience. It’s meant to show how Jesus acts in our lives, whether it is a dramatic conversion like Paul on the “Road to Damascus” or a gradual transition into the Kingdom of God. Our stories are unique and they’re important in God’s eyes because that’s the road he takes to reach us.
Take it away, Jon!
Hi Everyone. This is Jon again. I’m assuming at this point Jeremy and Kristen have welcomed their daughter into the world. That is an assumption on my part because I am writing this before her due date but this will post at least a week later. You see good bloggers, like Jeremy, work on posts in advance. I on the other hand like to write stuff and post immediately. I’m kind of a slacker in that way. So Jeremy is forcing me out of my procrastination comfort zone.
In my previous post I discussed with you the concept of Perichoresis. Today we are going to look at similar topic, one that Jeremy has been covering the past few weeks. Today we’re going to take a brief look at an important idea regarding the Holy Spirit. If you want to read the other ones you can find them here.
Let’s be frank here. If I was the Holy Spirit I would be a little bummed out. I would be thinking to myself “Guys like Jeremy are always calling me shy and everyone always seems to forget about me. Often they even think the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Bible. And then the people who really like me do super crazy stuff. Like wave flags around, push people over, and talk in a language that only I understand all the while looking weird. Having fans like these don’t add much to your street cred.” But alas I am not the Holy Spirit and that is a good thing.
The Person of the Holy Spirit
However, I do share one important similarity with the Holy Spirit that is often neglected when discussing him. The similarity is that we both exist as persons. It seems that people regularly forget that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person. If you notice in all of Jeremy’s posts about the Holy Spirit he has used the masculine pronoun to describe said person. This is a tradition that has good standing. In John 14:26 Jesus states “he will teach you.” You see Jesus didn’t say it. He gave credence to the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
So if he is a “he” and not an “it” why do we so often view him otherwise? I think it is because we don’t clearly understand him so it is easier to think of him as an “it.” There may be other various reasons but that is one in particular and unfortunately we don’t have the space to dive deeper into this idea.
This also means we need to be willing to change our thinking. No person likes to be objectified; so we shouldn’t objectify him. We need to alter our thinking. Often this is best done by our actions. To begin to change this idea I’d like to encourage you to begin interacting with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. In your mind pray to him specifically and refer to him as a him instead of it.
This is a complex thought that I think is best changed through simple actions over a period of time. Don’t expect immediate change. But strive to change you thought process by your actions. Be ok to take it slow. If you give it enough time you might just wake up and notice that you’re automatically thinking of him as a him.
Now may you this week be aware of the dynamic present person, known as the Holy Spirit, in your lives.
Jon Varner is a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, the longest seminary name in the world. Like me (Jeremy) he is about to have his first child or has had it depending on when you read this. Unlike me he is going to have a boy. For him that is a good thing because the thought of a daughter scares the you know what out of him. He is passionate about people consistently pursuing God and this includes better understanding him. In the next few years he hopes to plant a church in California. He tweets @jcvarner and be sure to check out Jon’s blog!
While I am out bonding with my beautiful daughter, I have the great privilege of bringing a dear friend to the blog. Johnny Rocha has helped shape my story, as he tirelessly reminds me of our part in the story of God righting the world. Learn about him more following this post, on his blog, and in the Twittersphere @JGRocha . So without further delay, take it away, Johnny!
Growing up I had two very different church experiences. When I was in elementary and middle school, I attended a more traditional Lutheran church, and then when I was a freshman in high school I switched over to an Assemblies of God church in town. Looking back, I see how both handled the idea of sin very differently.
When I was in the Lutheran church, we didn’t talk about sin very much. We talked about church history, learned the books of the Bible, and talked a lot about loving people like Jesus did, but we didn’t spend too much time focusing on the sin and death He saved us from.
Consumed by Sin
The Assemblies church, on the other hand, talked a whole lot about sin. Anger, lust, sexual impurity, drug addiction, gossip, stealing – the list just kept going. We talked a lot about what we shouldn’t do and what we needed to stop doing. We talked about how Jesus came to save us from these things, and we lamented that we kept putting Him back on the cross by making the same wrong choice over and over again. I remember spending so much time feeling bad about the choices I made, wondering if Jesus still loved me or forgave me. If you’re in the same camp let me tell you this: He does and He has.
Healthy View of Sin
I think a lot of us make the same two mistakes when it comes to sin: We either totally ignore sin in our lives, or we focus on it night and day letting it consume our thoughts.
I’ve come to realize that both of these mindsets, though often rooted in good intentions, are dangerous and ultimately selfish. Why? Because they both revolve around me instead of Him.
Let me make this clear – sin is a cancer. We cannot tolerate it. Not even a little bit. It is pure death; the exact opposite of the abundant life Jesus intends for us. We cannot ignore it and let it fester because it will rot us from the inside out. At the same time it does us little good to let our mistakes and shortcomings consume our thoughts and energy. Instead of dwelling on our past mistakes and shortcomings we need to seek the life of freedom and joy God desires for us both now in and our future.
The mis-focus of sin is that we often look to ourselves when we should instead look to Him! Does our selfishness know no bounds? When we’re wrapped up in the shame and guilt of our pasts we are unable to live in the freedom of unencumbered love that Christ Jesus died to give us. Let us come to a place where we look at our past, at the world, at all the things that are so tempting but ultimately meaningless, and instead look onward and upward, grit our teeth, and say to ourselves, “It’s not about me, it’s about Him. Today I choose to follow Jesus.”
Johnny is a speaker, coach, and creative consultant empowering people to discover who they are, whose they are, and use their God breathed gifts and passions to change their world. He has been privileged to speak at camps and churches in California about God’s furious love for His people and what it looks like to be part of His family.