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Archive for December, 2010

I used to work at General Nutrition Center –  hocking vitamins and supplements helped me get through college and pay a relatively small car payment.

It also gave me time to rebel against the corporate evil that made me wear a red polo shirt (nay, BUY and then wear…) every day to work. Evil, evil, evil!

More than that, it exposed me to something called “sales goals.” Our store was small, but as a part of the national chain we were required to meet certain goals or else things had to change. I rebelled against goals, mostly because they made me work at my actual job rather than spending my shift studying but also because they seemed, well, so “corporate” and “inhuman.”

So, when I think about 2011 I begin to think about goals and I have one question: Is it possible to make goals regarding how I need to grow as a follower of Jesus? Is it “anti-spiritual” to set goals?

I have had a change of heart – I don’t believe it is evil to set goals, but they need have certain characteristics in order for them to stay out of the “production-only” line of thinking (i.e. I’m only as good as what I’ve done).

Here are four suggestions on what goals must be:

1. Reasonable

“I’m going to fast for an entire month” is not (at least for everyone) a reasonable goal. If you feel called to that, yes, by all means go for it but don’t make it a goal just because it sounds spiritual. You might as well not make one at all if it isn’t reasonable for who you are and what you feel God is pushing you to do. I’m going to fast one day a month/week is more reasonable. With a goal like this, you also need a reasonable motivation for doing it. Fasting helps us reduce our dependence on stuff to keep us happy and also helps us focus our hunger on God.

2. Attainable

There are some really good goals for growth that you’ll never achieve in a year. “I want to forgive my father for…” is a goal that probably has more than a year’s worth of work in it. Start smaller, say, “I’m going to have lunch with my father once a month this year.” If you make a goal that you can’t reach the goal within the next year, you’ll get discouraged and it will leave you worse off than you were before. Also, this will give God a chance to show you that what you thought couldn’t be done in a year actually CAN be done through His guidance and strength.

3. Measurable

This is simple – make a goal so that you can clearly state when it’s done. “I want to be less of a jerk this year” is a tough goal (perhaps because of #1 & #2 but that’s not mine to say) especially because it’s hard to know when you’ve completed it. I’m not saying you have to have concrete data either, and your standard for achieving your goal may be something no one else completely understands (see #4 on this) but ultimately there has to be a moment where you say “Yeah, that’s it.”

4. Accountable

The goal you make needs to be able to be evaluated and someone needs to hold you accountable for it. If you are going to read one book of the Bible a month this year, you need to have someone (preferably not someone who annoys you to the point of rage) who will gently ask you if you’re keeping up with it and if not who will gently whack you in the forehead and say “get on with it.” Okay, that’s more for me but you get the point.

I’d say get away by yourself in the next week or so, take a pad of paper, a Bible, and items to remind you of the pieces of your life (family pictures, your business card, names of your co-workers and neighbors) and ask God “With these pieces in my life, what must I focus on so that you can make me the person you want me to be?”

I hope to share my spiritual growth goals for this year with you, but until then – what are your goals for this year?

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Every Christmas we are locked in by the season, the traditions, the carols, the presents, the stress, the guilt of knowing that we’ll never quite put ENOUGH Jesus in Christmas (which even the most steadfast followers of Jesus feel guilty about every year for some reason) and the list goes on and on.

But we also begin to think about the year that is past. My wife and I have a great ornament that contains a scroll where we every Christmas we write about what’s going on in our life, and then the next year we read over the scroll and reflect on where we’ve been.

Today, my question to you is this: What has happened to you in the last year that has impacted your relationship with God the most?

I’d love to see your memories in the comments section below. Be well friends and Merry Christmas!

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Sex is Spiritual

“Sometimes good sex can be an incredibly spiritual thing.”

I remember saying this to an all-guys small group.

I then remember an older gentleman in the group saying, “Not sure I remember what that is.”

There is a strong movement these days to recapture the “whole-life” kind of spirituality that not only grabs the disciplines of prayer, Scripture, etc. but also the life-balancing every day events such as family, marriage and work as essential growth and worship moments.

Sex is an act of worship. Sex is a spiritual thing, and God is present in it.

Think about it. Adam and Eve were given 3 commands. Take care of the Garden. Be fruitful and multiply. Don’t eat from that tree. Pretty simple really.

So God breathes the life (ru’ach, Hebrew word that’s also used for “spirit”, hmm….) into mankind and these spirit-filled people are basically commanded to be fruitful and multiply. I don’t have to fill that in for you. If you read the passage in context, it’s about having kids but it isn’t as if sex was totally distasteful in the garden and then got exciting once we weren’t “allowed” to engage in it. Sex was even better in the Garden than it is now.

Think about that. But only briefly.

We don’t know that they fulfilled this so much before self-selecting out of the Garden, but what we do know is that sex was intended to exist within the perfection of the Garden. The idea that sex is some obscene and ungodly thing that we all pretend doesn’t happen (so childbirth is done through spores and molting…really?) but in fact is part of the image of God that was wired into humans from the beginning is an incredibly spiritual idea.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, the world is broken. Sex is broken. Porn, adultery, sexual dysfunction have made it something outside the image of God and something that we have to be very careful with.

So why is sex, in our culture today, spiritual?

It reminds us of the creativity of God.

From the anatomy and physiology of it to the way it affects us emotionally, sex is expressive of the fact that God breaks barriers in creativity that we can’t even imagine. Then, if we remember that the God who was creative enough to design sex created us in His image (Gen. 2) we are then reminded of the good and beauty we’re capable of. We grow to appreciate God’s creation when we celebrate the act of sex as part of it, not as a disgusting and shameful secret moving against creation.

It teaches us about contentment.

This is probably harder for guys to hear, but sex is not something anyone is owed. “But, doesn’t the Bible say that the wife’s body belongs to me?” Yep. But yours belongs to her too – 1 Cor. 7:2-3 says that you give up demands and control of your body to your spouse, which means that sex needs to be something that both of you are ready and prepared to engage in. I know this isn’t always possible, but I think sometimes when we force the issue of sex in our marriages we lose the contentment idea that God had in mind. Celebrate sex in such a way that it is amazing and special (sacred even) when you do engage in it. This is even more important in the world we live in, where we are bombarded with skin from every angle and our sensitivity to the sacredness of sex is worn down substantially. Discipleship, abiding in Jesus, and truly loving one another is founded on our ability to choose good, beauty and freedom even against the tide of evil, darkness, and slavery. Sin becomes slavery when it becomes routine and expected rather than celebrated and sanctified (i.e. set apart for good and holy use).

It teaches us about covenant.

I believe that sex outside of marriage(aside from being sin because of its emotionally dangerous and destructive consequences) has the potential to rob us of one particularly beautiful characteristic of God – His covenant and promises to us. This is tricky, in some ways, but when we make a covenant with another person in marriage we are following the example of the covenant we make with God. So, we have a depth and an intimacy (God’s spirit dwelling within us, our physical bodies joining in marriage) that is such a holy thing that when we engage in sex with our husband or wife we’re revisiting the metaphor of God’s relationship with us. I know this is strange sounding, but the more we focus on #1 and #2 the more of a spiritually healthy and constructive act sex can be. God’s covenant is to renew creation – and what shows creation renewed better than the celebration of sex within a marriage relationship?

So, here’s the question that will bring out the “cricket sounds” in my comment area: Where is God in your sex life?

 

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A Piece of My Mind

Preparing for this weekend’s message “The Kingdom of Christmas: Lands Far Away” at Parkview. Here’s one of the key thoughts from my message that I wanted to throw out there as a) a teaser for this weekend’s message and b) a thought for you to reflect on.

Agree or disagree:

The reality is that the biggest news of Christmas isn’t just that Jesus came into the world. It isn’t even that He was born to a virgin. It’s all of those things but it’s one more: At Christmas, God settles the issue of who gets in. God settles the issue of outsiders versus insiders and goes after the outsiders. The time of the insiders like Herod is over, and the news of the King is going to everyone. Everywhere. No matter what. The Kingdom is wide open.

If you’re free this weekend, come check out Parkview and our special worship team Mosaic. If not, audio and video from the message will be posted on Parkview’s website on Monday.

*PS – The post on sex is coming. Be patient!

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Check out our dear Lockport campus’ Pastor Brian Hunt and the team who went to Kenya as part of the “One Light” project. Among the many things they did, they taught the girls of the local school some basic self-defense techniques to fend off rapists, which is a tremendous problem in that area.

Be back with a new post tomorrow – and it might just be about sex. I’m thinking you may want to fire up the RSS feed and check that one out.

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More Everyday Spirituality…

I get a daily email thought from Henri J.M. Nouwen. This was an incredibly beautiful thought for today:

“The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realisation in our day-to-day lives. Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises. Every time we forgive our neighbor, every time we make a child smile, every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens, and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations we are making the vision come true.”

How can you live out the vision of this Kingdom today?

Congratulations to commenter Jeremy who won the “Common Prayer” book by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove!

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What Keeps You Up At Night?

What keeps you up at night?

I sleep like a rock, so I can’t answer that particular question, but I can answer one just like it. What is it that is going on in the world that I can’t get out of my head? What is it that ticks me off? What is it that I see and demand that someone simply must do something about?

You know that thing. For a lot of us, we try and pray and these thoughts – or these people – keep coming to mind and we try to shake it off and put it away for another time. “Go away, I’m busy praying.”

One question: is it possible that this thing, that keeps you up at night and occupies your thoughts, is something that God is desperate for you to pray about? For you to get honest about? For you to get trained, commissioned and fired up to change?

What is it that God is bringing to your mind? Are you praying that God will help you make sense of it?

 

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