Ten Ways to Redeem Your Summer

I need to re-post this reminder of how to keep summer from slipping into nothing much at all. 

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The American summer is a child’s season.

It is not designed, it seems, for grownups who associate the smell of sunscreen with skin cancer prevention, or worry about watermelon seeds falling on the carpet. Perhaps our educational system sets the rhythm of our bodies at the time we enter kindergarten, where children, like Pavlov’s dogs, follow their conditional reflexes right to the swimming pool every June 1st. The impulse to earn A’s or do chores for mother gets squashed like so many blades of grass crushed under the Slip-n-slide.

I thought I was a grownup, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve been a public school teacher for a long time now, and except for the four years preceding kindergarten (when life is one continuous recess), I’ve never missed a summer vacation. But there’s a familiar paradox that hits me right about now every year when my mind and body prepares for the summer shift. Man is not designed for extended vacations, despite what my childish heart years for. The more discretionary time we have, the less we get done. The longer the Honeymoon package to Maui, the more we yearn for home. The more late nights we option, the fewer meaningful hours we have left in the day.

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The Call

Christians often have ideas and concepts that are rarely taught directly but come to us sideways, as a flavoring, a set of coded words or subtle suggestions.

I recall stumbling upon one of these slightly buried concepts not too long after becoming a believer in the middle of my High School years. I suppose it stands out strongly after all these years because it dealt with a subject that is usually very important to a young student; career choices.

From conversations and the way things were worded it became obvious to me as a young believer that among all the possible occupations “permissible” for a Christian (those such as becoming a professional hit man not making the list) the decision to do fulltime work as a minister or missionary was considered to have a unique and hallowed place among all other occupations.

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Battling Your Relationship With Shame

Discovering who we are inevitably leads us to discovering the reality that we're not who we desire to be - at least in ways.  Shame and guilt over past sin or current struggles can paralyze us....completely.  We feel separated from God, the people of God and the things of God.

We have to understand, though, that shame creeps in because we wrongly identify ourselves in sinful actions/tendency/behavior.  At it's core this misplacement of our identity is because we view ourselves as bodies that have a soul versus a soul that has a body.  

It may seem like a matter of semantics, but it's not at all.  It's an entirely different identity.  If we view ourselves as a body that continues to sin and do what we ought not - cf. Romans 7:18 - we inevitably end with feelings of shame and guilt.  However, if we view ourselves biblically and through Christ as a soul that has been made new, our identity is beyond our fleshly limitations and actions.  This is important to understand because our identity, then, is not found in sin, but instead in who God has made us to be spiritually (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14).

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Generational Values Hindering Relationships

Let’s be honest: connecting people of different generations is not the easiest thing to do.  We face obstacles like core values being different, older people being intimidated or frustrated by the younger generations, younger people not feeling the value of having an older person in their life…to either generation not knowing how to connect with the other.  There are ways we can help with these things (for more on that see chapters 7 and 8 of this book), but there is another issue that is just as obvious – if not more.  We just don’t talk about it as openly.

Younger people are desperate for an experience they know is Divine.  Of course not all desire this, but many just want to experience God, walk with Him daily, be a part of what He’s doing and be used by Him.  Sure, experience based pursuits can be incredibly dangerous if they are separated from truth.  But experiencing God can also be rooted in truth.  And this is what I find many college age people seeking.

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Ministry and the Neglect of the Sabbath

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's book Working the Angles (which is a must read for anyone in ministry), and came across this passage on Sabbath. I wanted to quote it for a couple of reasons, not least of which because of the hilarious comment about Augustine and his mother: 

"We are, most of us, Augustinians in our pulpits. We preach the sovereignty of our Lord, the primacy of grace, the glory of God...But the minute we leave our pulpits we are Pelagians. In our committee meetings and our planning sessions, in our obsessive attempts to meet the expectations of people, in our anxiety to please, in our hurry to cover all the bases, we practice a theology that puts our good will at the foundation of life and urges moral effort as the primary element in pleasing God...Pelagius was an unlikely heretic; Augustine an unlikely saint. By all accounts Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing. Everyone seems to have liked him immensely. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had some kind of Freudian thing with his mother [!], and made a lot of enemies. But all our theological and pastoral masters agree that Augustine started from God's grace and therefore had it right, and Pelagius started from human effort and therefore got it wrong. If we were as Augustinian out of the pulpit as we are in it, we would have no difficulty keeping sabbath. How did it happen that Pelagius became our master?"

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When Ministry is Secular

Jamin over at the Metamorpha blog has posted on an incredibly important issue in ministry. I suggest you read it here. Basically, the controversial claim is that many (could we even say most) of contemporary pastoral ministry is fundamentally secular. This is not to say that it is unChristian, as much as a-Christian. In other words, it is the claim that ministry has simply become pragmatically answering issues which arise in the church rather than addressing them spiritually. I would love to hear some thoughts about this. Have you seen this in your own ministry? In your church? Have you seen people pushing against this? Where?

Married. And. Happy.


…”It all belongs to you! I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there” (1 Chronicles 29:16b-17).

Last night, I watched Frank on The Bachelorette break Ali’s heart. Whether it was staged, scripted or the truth–what he did to her sucks. Total douche.

Which got me to think. I am Frank. Insecure. Selfish. Emotional. Easily persuaded. Full of regret. Feelings.

I wish I had the guts to break up with my last job sooner than I did. Let’s be honest. I was scared to death of losing the one job that meant the world to me. The opportunities it afforded me were priceless.

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Writing As a Ministry

My friend Ed Cyzewski recently wrote a blog series on Writing As a Ministry, and he asked me if I would share a few thoughts on this well, which I’m more than happy to oblige.  As a reader, you may also be a writer, or you may be a mom, or a pastor, or in business, or a carpenter, or a student, or any number of occupations.  But I invite you to consider why you do what you do and whether you consider what you do as a ministry or not.

I would love to say that I write books and this blog purely as a ministry.  I would love to say that because I desire for this to be my heart’s deepest desire.  What I can honestly say is that I write in order to:

  • Be affirmed
  • Express a gift
  • Force myself to think more deeply about daily life
  • Prove I have something worth saying, or prove I am valuable because of what I do
  • Attempt to know more of God
  • Share ways in which the gospel touches our daily lives
  • Satisfy my ego
  • Proclaim Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings
  • Feel important or impactful
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From Catalyst: God Wants Your Effort

Awesome quotes to motivate God's people as they work as part of the body of Christ in the world.

Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, and the co-founder of Catalyst, said:

If you've been at this church for more than a year, and you're not serving, then you need to leave.

Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy, a leader in the spiritual formation movement, said:

The Kingdom of God is God in action. Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.

 

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, said: Love God, don't use Him. 

Jesus in the Workplace

There seems to be a serious conflict with our current lives and strongly held concepts about church and ministry.

So many churches that I know of, which are actually great churches, hold to a local church-centric view of ministry. This means that the goal of the staff is to get the lay people involved in ministry, which is defined as either volunteering at the physical church location or through church organized service projects in the community.

Undoubtedly both of those are valuable and needed avenues. However, this is really what I call "faith addition", living your faith means 'adding' certain activities to your already busy life.

The contrast to this is "faith integration', living your faith means integrating your faith into whatever you are doing.

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