Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Soul living...

Week 40:

I Peter 2:11-12 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Some time back I wrote an article on All your Soul…  This article was one in a series of loving God with all out Heart, Soul, Mind, And Strength.  In the article I touched on part of living from the Soul.  In order to gain some understanding of the Soul, one must be in touch with the Holy Spirit.  Today, I want to touch on another part of the Soul.  This is an action part of the Soul, prompted by the Spirit.

I want to move backwards from the end of the verse.  Good deeds are an indicator of a healthy Soul.  Now, as we know, good deeds are not restricted to Christianity.  There are a lot of good deeds being performed by the people of the world.  But good deeds translate into a language that the world understands.  Everyone responds to good deeds.  Our good deeds will have even the pagans rejoicing in the end.

 Good deeds are an off-shoot of good living.  It is important for me to live a good life.  Now, I do not need to live a fake life that looks good from the outside.  This is not a good witness for the faith.  I also need to remind myself that I do not live a good life in order to earn God’s favor or eternal life.  I live a good life because it is good for my Soul.  I live a good life because of the gift God has given me.  I live a good life knowing that in doing so, it is what is best for me.  Finally, I live a good life because it influences others.

Living a good life and doing good deeds allows for the first part of the verse.  By living this way, I am creating a world where I can abstain from the sinful desires that wage war on the Soul.  The battle for the Soul is ongoing.  If I fill my Soul with good living and good deeds, then the battle is easier. 

Each day is a Soul living day.  I am challenged to do Soul work every day.  To gain this victory and feed my Soul, I must be intentional about my good living and my good deeds.  If not, then I have a much larger battle to fight when I have grown tired of my weary Soul.  When those times come, I realize that I have not been an example for the faith I need to be. 

The steps back in are listening to the Spirit and good living.  Time to love the good and do what is right.


1.      What sinful desires require work for you?
2.      What parts of your life need good living?
3.      What are some of your favorite good deeds?
4.      In what state of health would you say your Soul is in right now?
5.      This week, watch for opportunities to do good for the sake of Soul living.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Joining fellowship communities...

Week 39:

I John 1:6-7 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Following the general theme from the prior two weeks’ blogs (Fitting in or belonging…? and Going it alone…), I’d like to look at fellowship communities.  Research is showing that Church attendance is dwindling.  There are many factors contributing to this decline.  In fact, there are too many factors and opinions to summarize in this article.  This week is about the opportunities for fellowship both within the Church and outside of Church.

I have noticed that over the last several years that the body meeting at Church in general has not had the same effect and/or meaning for me as it has in the past.  I am not saying that Church is a fault or losing its power.  The change is in my walk.  The current Church methodology (mainstream) is not the only place where I meet God.  The Church has its place in my life both for me and for my contribution to the body.  Unless something drastically changes, I will still be a faithful Church attender and will be involved.

Church only meets corporately a couple of times a week.  Following God is a full time commitment.  Many Churches offer groups beyond the regular meeting times.  These are great places to create deeper relationships beyond a corporate type setting.  But what if the Church is small and cannot offer these types of fellowship?  What if what is being offered does not match up with my schedule?  What if I don’t “belong” in that group? 

Through the years, I have been able to have other fellowship opportunities with both coed groups and groups of men.  Many of these groups had a short-lived purpose and were quite fulfilling.  However, once the lifetime of the group had run out, I was missing the fellowship community it had created.  Fortunately for me, I work in a Christian environment where the focus is Christian education.  But not everyone has that opportunity.

Another group for me has spun off of my close association with The Crucible Project.  I have mentioned this organization in times past.  TCP’s committed to helping men become who God made them to be through authentic Christian living.  The groups I lead are Christian fellowships that take me deeper to my soul work than a corporate Church setting is able.  However, not everyone has a setting like this in his/her life.  So what do you do?  What kind of fellowship does one look for?

I think there are some key components needed for this type of fellowship.  One, it needs to help me build my gifts for the Kingdom and corporate Church life.  Two, it must have Jesus as center.  Three, all involved must be real and welcomed knowing all have skeletons in the closet.  Four, there must be accountability.  I am not talking about confession, but holding members to integrity within their walk with Jesus and others.  Finally, it must meet frequently. 

You may be able to find this in your workplace.  It is possible that there are other believers who you work with and already see you as you are.  You could start your own small fellowship community.  Now, I am not advocating leave the corporate body of Church.  In fact, any fellowship outside should enhance and build up one’s gifts to be used more fully in the corporate setting.  Your own fellowship community can be simply a Bible study to start.  After some time, you could incorporate the components as the group begins to feel safe for all. 

No matter the circumstance, I believe God wants me in fellowship with other believers.  This includes both a corporate Church setting and other fellowship communities.  My challenge for my readers is to examine where you are in your fellowship circles.  Find where God is working and join others in building each other up. 


1.      How would you define fellowship?
2.      What do you think about “other” fellowship communities outside the Church walls?
3.      What is missing in your walk with God?
4.      This week, take inventory on your fellowship with others.  What needs to change?  What needs to be enhanced?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Going it alone...

Week 38:

I Corinthians 12:12-30 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the modern-day Church.  Specifically around this idea of not needing Church in order to take part in a Christian walk.  What comes to mind are phrases like:  “I don’t have to go to Church in order to be ‘Christian’.” Or, “Going to Church doesn’t make you anymore a Christian than standing a garage makes you a car.”  Or, simply, “All I need is my personal relationship with Jesus.”  Now, I am not out to debate whether or not someone is a Christian in relation to Church attendance.  I am working off the experience of hearing Christians make these sorts of comments about Church.  I call this part of their walk, “Going it alone.” 

 Recently, Janet Hagberg devoted articles in her blog At River’s Edge to guest authors over the topic of; What is Church?  Why Church?  Thus far, she has devoted 3 different entries to the topic:  1st in series, 2nd in series, and 3rd in series.  It is interesting the range of responses from the different authors.  Ranging from (and I am interpreting and paraphrasing), ‘I left Church and experienced God more fully’ to ‘Church is where I belong’.  And, ‘Church is wherever a group of people has formed’ to ‘I now see the Church as part of me but not a definition of me’.  I can see a little bit of myself in all of these descriptions.

There have been times where I have been disenchanted with Church.  There have been times where I did not feel I belonged in Church.  Either because of the people there, or some sort of exposure I was feeling.  There have been times where I have wondered if we are doing “Church” right.  And yet, there have been times where I thought, “This must be a sample of what heaven will be like.”  Many times, Church for me has been my source of fellowship, worship, and learning. 

In M. Robert Mulholland’s book Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, Mulholland talks about a privatized, individualized spirituality vs. corporate spirituality.  In a lot of ways, the western Church is a reflection of our current society.  Our society has become very individualized, yet our society is also the most mentally ill society in history.  Mulholland spends some time writing about the different parts of the body based on the above passage.  In an interesting twist, he replaces the labelled body parts with personality types.  The reading around all of this reminded me about how important each part of the body is to each other.  In a Church, there are all kinds of parts and they are all interdependent upon each other.  When one part leaves and decides to “go it alone”, both the body and the part suffer. 

I am not advocating that we/I have to keep strict attendance in Church.  Also, I am not saying we/I even have to follow western Church expectations and traditions.  However, what I know for myself is that I need a body or community of some sort to continue my transformative work (that will not end until I die or Jesus returns).  Mulholland notes about corporate spirituality, “…we come into contact with others who become agents of grace in our growth toward wholeness in Christ, while we become agents of God’s grace in their growth.”  He compares our privatized spirituality to keeping control over releasing control to God.  He expounds on this further:

When we are in control of our relationship with God, when we try to maintain a privatized spirituality, we have to maintain a defensive posture toward others.  We have to protect ourselves against them because we sense, unconsciously if not consciously, that there is a fatal flaw somewhere in our privatized spirituality—and anyone might disclose it.  I have to keep you at arm’s length lest you reveal the weakness, the flaw, in my privatized spirituality.

Once I started going to Church in my teens, I really have not left attendance.  Oh, I had times in college where I was absent for several weeks, but for the most part I have been a faithful attender.  I haven’t tried “going it alone”…I thought.  Then I realized, I have not left the body physically, but I have checked out emotionally and mentally at times.  Here, I was “going it alone.”  In those times, I find myself in a dry walk.  In those times, I am not accountable and challenged.  In those times, I hear less from God. 

One other revelation comes up for me around this topic.  There are times where my attendance and fellowship is not for me.  Other parts of the body need my presence.  When my Church body is doing “hands” work and I am a foot, I have little to do.  However, I still am a support piece for others.  My feet need to be ready to move the body where the hands can work.  I have other responsibilities within the body besides what I can gain from the body.  If, I “go it alone”, then I am actually not supporting the body. 

Finally, I would like to think that I have matured enough in my walk that Church attendance is not keeping a checklist to please God for me.  There is more to Church attendance than doing it just out of obedience to” not forsaking the assembly”.  There is a community of believers that is there for me and there so that I may support them.  I need to be an example…not of how it should be done necessarily, but one of support and function within the body.  I believe that God is still working in His Church.  What I need to continue is to pay attention to where.


1.      Explain where in your spiritual walk you have gone it alone?
2.      What was the reason behind this lonely walk?
3.      Take some time and read the articles from the Hagberg blog.  What is your reaction to them?
4.      What do you think are some of the reason behind a privatized spirituality?
5.      Search your heart and listen for God this week around your role in the body.  Pay attention to what God’s direction may be for you.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Fitting in or belonging...?

Week 37:

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

I have recently read a book by Brené Brown titled Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.   Brené is an author, researcher, and college professor and her recent work has been in the areas of vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  Her book was written for a broad arena of readers.  However, as I read through her material, I could sense a Biblical and Spiritual perspective within her study of human nature and interaction.

One of the things that Brené briefly touched on in her book has been a theme that God has been working on in my life for some time now.  After reading it on the pages of the book, I have become even more aware of this theme over the past few weeks.  The theme is this idea of fitting in vs. belonging.  Basically, fitting in is becoming someone I am not in order to fit into a group or to connect with a person.  A sense of belonging is when I belong to a group or am accepted by someone just as I am.  Even if I am not accepted, I still have a sense of belonging because I am good with who I am (with who God made me to be).   

Several years ago I realized that I was living life in such a way that really did not know who I was.  I was living the life of a pleaser in order to be accepted…to fit in.  It started for me somewhere in Elementary School.  I began to be somebody I was not and began to act like those around me.  I did this for so long that I really did not know who I was.  Somewhere in my early 20s, I realized that I was a poser.  If someone were to ask me then what I wanted from life, I could give a Churchy answer…but really deep inside, I didn’t have a clue.  I did not like who I had become.  Yet, I really did not do anything about it.  A few years ago, I realized that I needed a transformational shift in my life by God.  So, I began this journey that I am now on to let God work His power in me, my heart and my soul. 

Within that journey come themes that I believe God places in my life for a time.  These themes are opportunities to do work on my heart and soul.  The part of Brené’s book about fitting vs. belonging reminded me of the above verse.  I do realize that one verse can be taken out of context.  However, when I look at the area from which this verse is written, it fits my walk.  The verses leading to 4:25 talk about putting off the old self.  That is what I am in the middle of doing now.  And, one of the parts of the old self I am still setting aside is the false self.  This is the part of me that acts a certain way in order to fit in. 

While I was looking at that part of myself as well as observing this action in others, another verse came to mind for me.  “Do not covet.” (Exodus 20:17)  An even more accurate verse to this situation is James 4:2-3: “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  In my desire to belong, I have tried to fit in.  I have tried to fit in because I covet the connection, the belonging.  I am trying to belong or fit in with earthly situations. 

The challenge for me is to be good with who God made me to be.  I am on a journey of improvement within that purpose, but I am not to be who I am not.  In order to drop my false self, I need to recognize what I covet.  When recognize how and why I covet, I realize that I belong, but I do not necessarily need to fit in.


1.      What came up for you when you read the difference between fitting in and belonging?
2.      What are some of the actions you take in order to fit in?
3.      What have been the results of your efforts to fit in?
4.      Have you been able to feel the difference between fitting in and belonging?  Explain.
5.      What was your reaction to fitting in relating to coveting?
6.      This week, pay attention to what God may be revealing to you from this article.    

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Dark and light...

Week 36:

This week, spend time in prayer and meditation over this passage.  Follow the instructions below the passage as your guide.

Ephesians 5:8-17 8For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes light.  14 That is why it is said:

            “Wake up, sleeper,
               rise from the dead,
               and Christ will shine on you.”

15Be very careful, then. How you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

You will be reading this passage three times following the guidelines below:

1.  First reading.  Read the passage through, one time, slowly.  Pause between each clause.  After you finish this first reading, be silent for a minute or two.

2.  Second reading.  Read the text slowly once again, pausing between phrases.  But this time pause even longer and be aware if any of the words or phrases that catch your attention, or seem to stand out in some way.  Make a mental note of those.  After you finish the second reading, write down those special words or phrases.

3.  Third reading.  Reread the passage up to the word or phrase that touched you in some way.  When you reach that word or phrase, stop and repeat it a few times.

4.  Pondering.  Reflect for a while on the phrase that moved you.  Repeat it a few more times.  Let the words interact with your thoughts, your memories or any other Bible passages that come to mind.  Let it touch your heart, desires and fears.  Begin to wonder, “What might God want to say to me specifically”?

5.  Prayer.  Turn that last question into a prayer, asking God, “What is the word you have for me in this passage, God?  Is there anything you want to say to me today?”  Listen.  Write down anything you sense God might be saying to you.

6.  Rest.  Be still and silent for a while.  Enjoy being in the presence of God.  In this step you move from doing to being.  Simply be for a while.
7.  Response.  Ask yourself and God, “What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?”  Perhaps you are feeling challenged to love God more, or to accept some aspect of who you are, or to serve someone you know or to begin changing some aspect of your character.  Whatever it is, write it out.  “Today God is calling me to be a more ______ person.  Be with me God and teach me how.”   Thank God for the word and the calling you have been given.

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