Learning to Live a Life of Discipline

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We all know that living a life of discipline is important for many reasons, but this topic is not something traditionally touched on Sunday mornings, how learning to live a life of spiritual discipline is just as important in the Christian walk.  Often we think we can only worship on Sunday in the church building, or only pray when we get on our knees and fold our hands.  That is a slight over exaggeration but we know that scripture says in 1 Thess 5:17 to pray without ceasing, so how can we do that if we only participate in prayer or worship on Sunday mornings?

The photo I shot below was taken on a beach in Orange County California several months ago.  It was almost deserted except for a few surfers and after a long day of work it was a great place to worship and pray while I watched the beauty of God’s day come to an end (other photos from that afternoon of worship are posted in Pacific Coast Sunset in OC // Friday Feet).

I just finished one of the best small books I have read recently called Spiritual Life by Westerhoff, and in his book he explains 6 different ways we go about learning to live a life of spiritual discipline.  Silence and solitude, preparation, writing, reading, and several others are all ways we can experience God’s presence, and in turn grow in our spiritual relationship with Him.  I for one am excited to be able to worship the God who made this sunset, it was an afternoon between me and His presence that I won’t soon forget.

If you would like to read my extended comments on this topic I have made them available in this short essay called Spiritual Formation, Learning to Live a Life of Discipline in a pdf download.  I have a long way to go, but love knowing that I can worship our Lord anywhere, anytime, and he hears my prayer, and he hears yours as well.

Link to pdf Download.

Batterson on Chasing the Holy Spirit in Wild Goose Chase

Once again I am a little behind the current book release scene in reading Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson but I did finally get around to reading this book last week.  After a quick tally for 2009 I discovered that this was around book number twenty-five for me this year and out of all the popular (none scholarly) books I have read so far, Wild Goose Chase had to be one of the best. 

Reading Blue Like Jazz and Wild Goose Chase back to back was very interesting and they complimented each other very well, even though they were very different books.

Batterson walks through, in very practical ways, how we go about chasing after the Holy Spirit (as Celtic Christians called Him, An Geadh-Glas, or the Wild Goose), or our lack there-of.  Often we go through life from one routine to the next and our spiritual life becomes, to us, boring.  As Batterson explains, God never meant the Christian life to be mundane and boring.  It is dangerous, bold, exciting, and adventurous… when we learn to depend on Him and follow the Holy Spirit instead of our own selfish ambitions.

As I have mentioned in my blog many times in the past, I have never thought God intended our life to be the pursuit of a good 9-5 job, a nice house with a two-car garage (and two cars to go in the driveway because we can’t get them in the garage), a 401k, and early retirement so we can play golf until we are called home to heaven.  An over exaggeration perhaps, that might be “the American dream”, but I don’t think it is God’s dream for us (or at least not for me).  Batterson brings this home and sums it up like this:

  • Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death
  • Set God-Sized Goals
  • Pursue God-ordained passions
  • Don’t let fear dictate your decisions
  • Don’t take the easy way out

As I read through each chapter it became aware to me that Batterson has been following me around without me knowing it, and I appreciate him writing a book just for me.  What a great reminder it was to read about living boldly for Christ and not getting stuck into a routine of ineffectiveness.

The book was a quick read, easy to understand, and applies to a great many Believers in the U.S. today.  It was probably written more for the layman or pastor but anyone interested in following the Holy Spirit, wherever it leads, can’t go wrong with Wild Goose Chase.

Back When I Actually Did Have Hair :: Throwback Thursday

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Yes, this is me from back in 1994 with our Basset Hound, Blazer.  We just got back from a week of travel from Virginia to North Carolina and all places in between.  When we got back we found out that Blazer (who is 16 years old) had about reached his limit with life and after sharing that life with us for the past 16 years he will be very missed in our family.  He traveled to every state in the continental U.S. and we have countless memories together.  Our house feels empty but right now but God’s plan moves on ahead.  More photos are over on Deb’s blog here.

We went up to Virginia to visit the campus of Liberty University where I am currently working on my MDiv (Master of Divinity) at Liberty Theological Seminary.  I have the option to take a language track in Greek and Hebrew, which will take about a year or more to finish, but must be completed on campus.  So we went up to Lynchburg to see what our living options might be when it comes time to take those classes.

Up to this point every class I have taken has been through their distance learning program and although that is the easiest path to take, it might not be the best path to take.  The language track will open up some opportunities for post-graduate work, but more importantly I hope it will benefit whatever ministry I am a part of when I finish my masters.

As a follower of Christ I don’t ever want to get to the point in my walk where I am unwilling to get out of my comfort zone and take bold steps.  I have found the older we get, the easier it is to live in a state of routine and forget that we are to live boldly for Christ, and sometimes that means giving up the easy path for a more challenging one.  I think sometimes we can stay chained to our safe routines for so long that we don’t even know how to escape if we wanted to, and faith is supposed to be anything but routine.

A lot has changed in my family since 1994 when Deborah took this photo at our house in Homewood, Alabama, Blazer is not with us, neither is my hair, but some how I added a few pounds and our routine will change once again.

On Our Way to the Outer Banks :: Friday Feet

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I haven’t posted a Friday Feet shot in a while so I thought I would get a few shots of Ebby before we left tomorrow.  After a long semester we are finally leaving tomorrow for Anderson SC (to worship at NewSpring on Sunday), then to Virginia to visit LU, and then over to the Outer Banks.  One of our favorite spots on the east coast, the Outer Banks, is also one of those gems we have in the U.S. that is very empty once school starts and has some of the greatest locals around.

I am looking forward to spending at least one full day on the quiet beach reading a book.  Till then, meet Ebby.  I did just cut the grass but she is still a little shorter than the grass is tall.

And Then There Was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

So I guess I am probably the last person in the world to read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz but I did finally get a chance to read it this week.  My summer semester at Liberty finally ended this week (and the fall semester doesn’t start for a week) and I have had a few days to pick up some, non-threatening read because-you-want-to, books, and the first one was Blue Like Jazz.  This book was published back in 2003 and reminded me a little of Churched by Matthew Paul Turner [jesusneedsnewpr] (which I forgot to review but should soon), and even slightly Roose’s Unlikely Disciple (also unreviewed yet), in the fact that it was autobiographical in nature.

Miller takes a self deprecating approach to his life as a Christian and, although he is not a theologian, he is as real and genuine as it gets.  He takes the philosophies of growing up as a modern evangelical, that which many of us in the southern bible belt are all too familiar with, and turns it on its head.  Miller shows us that there really are orthodox believers, [that is: those who want to hold fast to the teachings of Jesus regardless of denominational affiliations (even those of grace and love)], that live outside of the belt that runs from Texas to Alabama to South Carolina. [We really do know that Christians exist outside of the belt but sometimes we think we are the important ones (especially if you are in the buckle part of the belt) since we hold up the faith’s pants.]

Jesus Was Not a Democrat or a Republican

Who knew.  One of the best reminders I took away from Blue Like Jazz is that Jesus was not a Democrat or a Republican (or a liberal or conservative for that matter).  If we truly want to follow Jesus’ teachings, we have to follow Him fully, not necessarily some party affiliation.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have opinions one way or the other, but if we seriously look at what scripture says, there are certainly issues that go against (and for) both party affiliations.  Jesus taught unconditional love, something that seems almost impossible for us evangelicals to actually live out, every day.

After the first few chapters I almost put the book down thinking Miller was going to just spew a political agenda, but that was really the point.  Jesus didn’t have a political agenda during His earthly ministry, he was interested in our salvation, not our politics.  I connected with Miller because his background growing up was similar to mine, but that’s where it ended, and it was very refreshing to read a totally and completely different perspective on what it means to be a Christian, not just an evangelical.

Notables in the Text

I try never to read a book any more without a pen handy to underline and take notes with.  This book wasn’t a huge notation text but there were several things that caught my attention.  One was the story Miller told about buying an extension cord at The Home Depot in the money section.  That story was worth buying the book right there.  Others that caught my eye were:

  1. many of the students hated the very idea of God, and yet they cared about people more than I did
  2. [Jesus] didn’t show partiality, which every human does… and neither should we
  3. the tricky thing about life, really, [is] that the things we want most will kill us
  4. the undercurrent running through culture is not giving people value based upon what they believe and what they are doing to aid society… [it] is deciding their value based upon whether or not they are cool
  5. what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do
  6. no drug is so powerful as the drug of self-[addiction]

There were many more but that is a good start.  Blue Like Jazz is certainly well worth the time, and if you grew up in the southern bible belt surrounded by the evangelical machine it is a must read.  I am now looking forward to reading some of Miller’s other books as well.  Next up is Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, but this one will be read on the beaches of North Carolina (yeah), so it might take a little longer to finish.