Tuesday, December 30

Somewhere Between Hearing and Doing

On work days, my wife and I study the Bible together, sort of. With our schedules, it's easier for us to study the same thing at different times- on our own, but together. She usually studies during her lunch break and I just do it whenever I am awake. Sometimes we talk about what stood out to us in the reading that day. Lately, we have been reading with a mind to obey in the book of Luke.

Usually, we read a chapter and I pick out a handful of verses for us to really focus on. We write out those verses verbatim, so that it sinks in deeply. Then we write them again, but in our own words. That way, we know for sure that we understand what's being said. Finally, we write "I will" statements- ways in which we will obey the imperative found in the words of God.

Today, we were in Luke 6. We chose to look in-depth at the last section, which talks about foundations, hearing, and acting. It's a direct hit on what I have been wanting to do lately (see O Man, 1-3). In a lot of ways, I have been the foolish man who hears, but does not act on what he hears. Jesus says that ultimately, that approach to spirituality leads to great ruin.

But how do you become that wise guy who hears and acts? Especially if you've been the fool for so long? Are there steps missing from the equation? Shouldn't there be something between Hearing and Doing?

Jesus' Steps to Obedience:
1. Hear
2. Do

My Steps to Obedience
1. Hear
2. Consider what will happen if I do
3. Weigh the consequences of doing versus not doing
4. Look around for anyone else who might be doing or not doing
5. Decide doing is worth a try
6. Do, but only half-heartedly
7. Fail several times
8. Decide it is undoable
9. Come back and give it another try
10. Do

My steps are obviously less tidy than the ones Jesus laid out. They take longer, too. But I don't think they would be so bad if I actually made it from step one to step ten. The problem is, I usually get lost and turned around somewhere in between Hearing and Doing.

Maybe I should lose the extra steps?

Monday, December 22

O Man, Part Three

... It may require something radical. Or maybe not.

I thought about calling this radical obedience because to us, 100% obedience seems radical, and because it just sounds cool. Radical obedience. Sounds cool. But then I decided that there is no such thing as radical obedience. There is no such thing as full obedience. There is only obedience and disobedience. If there is anything radical about it, it is the paradigm shift that needs to happen within me. A decision must be made in my noggin that compromise results not in "partial obedience," but flat out disregard for the commands of God- disobedience. And the result of regular disobedience? Stagnant spirituality.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments... One ho has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and reveal myself to him."

So I will be using this blog as a tool. Call it accountability if you like. It might even be appropriate to call this a spiritual experiment. My plan is to systematically begin reading God's word with a mind to obey it. Not to know it, memorize it, or even apply it, but to simply obey it. I'll share what I am reading on this blog and lay out my plan for immediate obedience. I'll also be sharing my results and struggles with obedience. All of this I'll do in hopes of growing more like a disciple of Christ and less like an observer of Christ. The time has long passed to get off the bleachers and step into the game. Here we go.

O Man, Part Two

... I believe the day I stopped reaching my spiritual potential was the day I accepted partial obedience as the norm.

Somewhere along the way in my spiritual walk, I got confused. I began to elevate knowledge over obedience. Spiritual maturity was displayed in facts recalled, not commands obeyed. Early in my Christian days, I knew very little and obeyed most of what I knew. Now, I know a lot, but obey only a fraction of what I know? Is this experience common? Can you see it happening in your life? What is better, to know one hundred things and only obey ten of them, or to know ten things and obey nine out of ten? I think I would rather be the latter fellow, but introspection tells me I am more like the first guy. Oh, but I want a change. How wonderful it would be to have knowledge with complete obedience.

I think knowledge with complete obedience is what we all shoot for to begin with. I am not sure what cases us to compromise and settle for partial obedience instead. Maybe it is because we look around and partial obedience is widely accepted. Maybe it is because we know that we cannot be perfect, so why not lean as heavily as we can upon grace? Maybe it is a slow numbing that we don't notice until we have moved far, far off the path we wanted to travel. Maybe it is a combination of all of these things and more? Like I said, I'm not sure.

So how do I (or we if you'll join me) get back to that place where full obedience is a natural way of life? It may require something radical. Or maybe not.

O Man, Part One

I realized the other day that at age 24, I have been a Christian over half of my life.

You would think I’d be a little further along by now.

I know I’ve grown in a lot of ways… I guess I have honed some talents in leadership, teaching, public speaking, and the like, but those personal improvements don’t necessarily indicate spiritual growth, do they? I guess I have grown some in knowledge… I can quickly turn to any book in the Bible. I can quote some verses. I can answer most doctrinal questions pretty easily. But is that spiritual growth? Sometimes I wonder if I am any better than I was five years ago. Am I more like Jesus than I was five years ago? I have a beard now… maybe that counts for something. But have I grown in the things that really matter?

As long as I can remember, I have looked up to people who seem to have it going on spiritually. Maybe you can think of someone like this. They seem to be on a higher plane. They seem to always say and do the right thing at the right time. You know who I’m talking about. They are the ones you want to have vouch for you on judgment day. I have tried before to pinpoint what sets these people apart from the rest of us- we Christians who desperately want to grow, but feel like we are spinning our wheels in the mud. Well… I was thinking that maybe I’ve figured it out.

Sometimes I feel like a little sprig of grass in the middle of a forest. There was a time, early on, when my spiritual growth was on par with everyone else. In fact, there have been times when I seemed to zoom past others in this area. But now the forest has grown up around me and I'm still just a little shrimp. What happened? What exactly went wrong? What did I do? What didn't I do? These are frustrating questions I have asked myself over and over again. And now finally I think I have a decent answer. I believe the day I stopped reaching my spiritual potential was the day I accepted partial obedience as the norm.