Providing Elevation Opportunities from Lowest Level to the Highest

Latest

Spiritual Formation in the Digital Age – a blog post assignment for one of my Seminary Courses!

Just thought I’d share it here… Let me know what you think in the comments (there’s some pointers for future Seminary students in part 3!

Introduction

As Christians grow in their 21st Century lives, through all the distractions they daily encounter, the need to focus on fellowship and witnessing is ever present in order to avoid the many pitfalls they face. A quick search on the internet will reveal much regarding Spiritual formation, from charts attempting to explain it like these, or long  articles and even books… 

During a course I’m taking while enrolled in seminary, many of my reading assignments are from a book titled “Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age” in which the authors, Stephen and Mary Lowe, provide numerous valuable insights on spiritual formation using some pretty powerful plant-based analogies.

This blog post will explore just two of the most impactful and potentially helpful ideas that, based on my own life’s experience I have personally benefited from, and believe they will continue to aid in my spiritual formation. Additionally, this blog post will include a plan of action for implementing these strategies in life and ministry.  In the last part of this blog, I will also provide a final exhortation from Danny Zacharias and Ben Forrest’s handbook titled “Surviving and Thriving in Seminary.” 

Spiritual Formation Concepts for the Digital Age

The first spiritual formation concept addressed in the book that I need to incorporate into my life and ministry is focusing on reciprocal interactions with my relationships, whether with God, family, or other Christians in my community as we do life together.  Secondly, I was compelled and convicted by the concept of being more contagious, whether in pursuing holiness, sharing the Gospel, or the process of sanctification.  Both of these concepts, while not entirely new to me, were framed in a way I couldn’t ever remember hearing.  Also, since by nature I am quite the introvert, the idea of intentionally interacting with others does not come naturally, even though I’m quite savvy using the on-line technological tools available to us today which make those interactions more possible than ever!  

With respect to reciprocal interactions, it was illuminating to read how many of those there are in nature and how beneficial they are.  The Lowe’s write “The result of these various reciprocal exchanges and interactions between individual entities in an ecosystem is the general viability and sustained growth and development of both the entities and the ecosystem.” (Page 172 of “Ecologies of faith in a digital age: spiritual growth through online education“) In that book I read about how reciprocal interactions were included in the Old Testament covenants between God and the Israelites, then in the New Testament between Christ and the Church, and of course between humans and Christians, and it really got my wheels turning.  I started thinking of the interactions I have had over the past year and a half specifically; and even more specifically, my online interactions with social media in particular.  I can’t say they were always the mutually beneficial reciprocal interactions that the Lowe’s are trying to help their reader’s see, but sometimes you need to see the wrong way so that you appreciate the correct way that much more.  One danger could be to expect something in return through your interactions, as a “give-to-get” sort of construct; but I think it’s also possible just to trying blessing others without that expectation of a pay-back, even while also being mindful of those who chose not to reciprocate. Those ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and both could be helpful for spiritual growth.  A few months ago the concept of categories of relationships dawned on me, and now that I’ve read about the reciprocal interactions in this construct of spiritual formation, they reinforce the idea I had.  There were 3 categories I originally came up with, and in one category I place those who I learn from but who don’t  learn from me (or cannot because they don’t know me); next were the relationships which were mutually beneficial because we learn from each other; and finally those in which I may not be learning from them, but some actually learn from me — perhaps that includes some of the readers of this blog post…  Do me a favor and leave me a comment so you can move up into the second category, will you?

Next is the concept of contagious sanctification which just sounds good, doesn’t it?  I am willing to bet many pastors wish the process of sanctification in their congregants was a bit  more contagious.  Unfortunately, it seems that most of the negative behaviors, gossip, greed, lust,  or idolatry are more contagious than the transformation of sinners into saints and the renewal of their minds. (Romans 12:1-2) The Lowe’s give those pastors hope however when they write, “The cultivating work is the active ministry of the Spirit through the head who makes possible contagious connections between the members of the body, resulting in mutual growth. (Page 198 of “Ecologies of faith in a digital age”). They also say that Paul, in Romans 11:16 is describing a contagious and infectious quality of holiness. There is no doubt a contagious aspect of good, and yet we don’t see it as much, so it seems; therefore, I think by creating a framework for intentionally applying spiritual disciplines that keep this concept in mind would be transformative for me personally as well as the church and any other ministry in which I might be involved.

Plan of Action   

Though it was originally Benjamin Franklin who said it, the Marine Corps has commandeered the saying, “IF you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  With this in mind, I’d like to provide a framework for ensuring we have a plan so we do not fail in our spiritual formation.  This plan will be fairly basic, but also comprehensive and can be applied not only to the two concepts of reciprocal interactions and contagious sanctification, but any other concept one might learn regarding spiritual formation. 

           The first step in setting up a solid plan for spiritual formation is to get help from another person; not a book, not a video, and not a podcast; a person.  Though this person can be reachable electronically, it would be best if you can meet face to face at least a few times a year.  The plan I would recommend for spiritual formation would include just a few basic essentials in order to keep it from being overwhelming, but it would still require another individual to hold you accountable. Though I believe accountability is so essential I could frame one full aspect of the action plan for it, I will include it in one parts of the plan The basic essentials are three-fold for single individuals and four-fold for those who are married and/or have children.  The separate parts of the plan would be tied to relationships because God created us from the overflowing relationship He has with Himself in perfect unity as Triune God existing in Spirit, therefore if we are to be spiritually formed, it is all about relationships.  For the married person the relationships would be first between him/her and God, second with their spouse and children, third with a mentor or leader who is discipling them, and fourth within their community of believers.  For the single Christian the second would simply wait for later leaving them with three primary relationships on which to focus.  

  Once the relationships are established, I can write down examples of reciprocity to seek out and those to avoid.  For example, with God, I might write: “Spend time in devotions honors God, and He reciprocates by revealing more of Himself to me.”  Likewise with my list of ways to reciprocate blessings in the home could include any of the 5 love languages and whatever makes “deposits” into my wife’s or children’s love banks; I could even list those things that cause “withdrawals” and a record of times when the “love bank” had insufficient funds!  After laying this information out to make it clear, I could engage those relationships, even God through prayer, to add or adjust as necessary and then set up a kind of battle rhythm (what we call it in the military) for daily, weekly, or monthly review while journaling the growth in the relationships as a result of focusing on these reciprocal interactions.  In order to complete this action plan I would conduct a similar exercise with the ways in which my sanctification could be contagious to those around me.  I mentioned accountability earlier, and I think starting to hold others accountable, with their permission of course, would be an excellent way to help me grow in sanctification while helping others as well.  A simple question to someone at church like, what have you been reading lately, or how has the Lord been speaking to you could prompt a conversation in one of those relationships with positive results.  Adding these two concepts to the daily, weekly or monthly planners I already maintain will be an excellent way to keep me on task and on target as I execute this action plan and ensure success!

Advice to a new or prospective Seminary Student:

  As mentioned in the introductory paragraphs, I want to close this blog with just one main take-away/piece of advice (although there were several) from the book “Surviving and Thriving in Seminary,” This will be for any reader who is currently enrolled in seminary courses or planing to do so at some point in the future.  As mentioned, there were several powerful points  made in the book, and one quote that really jumped out at me was about how a person with a family can progress through seminary: 1 way successfully and 2 ways not so much! In the screenshot to the right you can see how I shared this in a group of Marines, and I received a response from someone who thought the last two seemed the same; included below is my response. 

  I also was hit pretty hard by the subtitle “This is your job” on page 67 because I  currently have about 3 other things in my life that feel like full time jobs. 

  But with respect to that which will help you continue to grow in the faith while enrolled in seminary, I think the most impactful idea that will help a new student, or even someone who is about half way done as I am, is to maintain the spiritual discipline of a daily devotional life.

  I really think people struggle with this not just with seminary but also with many  other things in life which demand time and attention, whether it is a job, hobby or different kind of study or entertainment. Not the graphic to the right and you will see the difficulty balancing family life just from the number of people who get divorced after pledging to each other before God, family and friends that they won’t part until death. Clearly, the need to stick to the promises we make is ever present, and with that is a need for strategy in order to be successful.  First and foremost is the need for personal quiet time and devotions with God.  I was taught early last year that the devotional life is like a 3-legged stool in which the three “legs”: Bible reading/study, prayer/journaling, and worship must be equal in strength and length.  

  Danny Zacharias and Ben Forrest describe how seminary students face the temptation to consider their daily devotions to include the 9-27 hours they spend each week (whether taking a 3 or 9 credit hours course load). 

The authors’ admonition (as indicated by the quote from their book to the left) was to avoid doing this  and to insist and persist in allocating a separate time block in which to spend meditating on the Word, praying to God and worshiping Him.  I have personally faced and given into this temptation, and I didn’t really realize just how dangerous it was to do this even though I send a daily accountability text check-in with my “Band of Brothers” in which I state whether I’ve had my daily devotions, among other things, and I have many times counted my seminary studies as “checking that box.”  Going forward, even if I spend several hours completing assignments, like I am today, I will ensure I am not “good on devo’s” unless I actually spent 15-30 minutes with God apart from my reading or writing assignments for seminary.  

  While I would encourage you to read Danny and Ben’s handbook for yourself and take notes, if there is one single take-away I believe would benefit you the most it would be that: do not forsake your daily devotions or try to replace them with academic requirements.  Just as Jesus taught us, gaining the whole world and losing our soul does not profit (Matthew 16:26 & Mark 8:36), and so if you get all A’s but your life falls apart due to being disconnected from God, you would be failing in your relationships which are much more important and long lasting than a letter grade for a class.  Keep me updated on your journey when you have time, I’d love to be reminded to pray for you!

Perfect Peace,

Adam

Quick follow-up on the controversial post

After having a couple discussions about the post I wrote and read on youtube, I thought a follow-up would be appropriate… I’m a big fan of getting and giving feedback because of how much clarification can help in comprehension.

So I was told my biases came through in that last post, and my reaction was positive to that news. I really think that some of the most dangerous people are those who don’t acknowledge (or worse: can’t recognize) their own biases – they can be skilled at manipulation by gaining trust, and you may not know where they are intentionally leading you…

I would much prefer learning from those who are open and honest about which direction they lean. I think I’ve quoted the Lorax on this blog, or at least I’ve done social media posts about it:

Will the 'Lorax' Remake Speak to a New Generation of ...
The Lorax asks good questions!

“Q: Which way does a tree fall?

A: The direction it leans.

M: Be careful how you lean.”

If you couldn’t tell, people think I lean right, and as I mentioned, perceptions are important. The reality is that the culture has gone so far left that someone like me; with political bias chart results like this is perceived as far-right wing:

Adam’s political leaning: just left of center (taken mid-way through last year – updated one down below)!

But instead of claiming I’m a left leaning individual, (though I do make that joke from time to time – because according to the chart it is true), I recognize that people perceive me as conservative and I embrace that characterization and encourage others to do so as well (that is, embrace the bias characterization others give you).

If you’re having difficulty doing what I wrote about previously: agreeing to disagree with someone on a polarizing topic, perhaps try to discuss where you stand on the political spectrum? That might help focus on the relationship more than the disagreement, and I think if someone desires friendship more than they desire being right in an argument, they’d be willing to take the simple test and compare results. You can go right here right now!

If that doesn’t work, try these 5 steps from the flow chart I drafted up a few months back. I think it’s useful in knowing when to disengage or whether to engage at all! Comment below if you have any questions!

Peace,

Adam

And here’s my updated political bias chart (took it just now!) – I told you the world is shifting left b/c now I’m on the right side of the spectrum, ha ha!

July is Freedom Month and August is the month of Meditation

I’ve been wanting to write a lot about the themes for these 2 months, but just have not felt inspired… I’m sure there are images and Bible verses that I could come up with and make a fancy and catchy blog post, but that will have to wait till later… (though since I originally posted this I did add a couple images and Proverbs 17:15 ties in nicely to the below thoughts).

But since I started these Monthly theme posts about 12 years ago and took a several-year break between month 4-5 and then another couple years until I posted month 6, I figure I can set my sights on completing these two and the rest (September-December) some later date – maybe after the pandemic is over… ha!

Mel Gibson AKA William Wallace – meditating on freedom, I’m sure

Speaking of that though (the “pandemic”), and all that has been going on which has had a polarizing effect on most people over the past year and a half, here’s something I wrote on a note in a moment of inspiration — Enjoy!

=================================================================================

Condoning vs. Condemning w/r/t Controversial Concepts (e.g. Conspiracies & Corruption)

I have noticed recently the hesitancy of those who consider themselves Christians and are left leaning to condemn things like homosexual behavior, or governmental over-reach just to name a couple controversial concepts, while they are also quick to condemn arguments against those 2 things or any theories used to explain the corporate corruption so apparent to some.  On the other hand, with respect to those leaning more to the right, I have seen individuals quick to condemn things like open borders policies and radical Islamic terrorism, but not quite as vocal regarding the distrust for institutions and a conspiratorial mindset which some on their side exhibit.  

The reasons for these differences in priorities of focus are manifold, but I think it’s worth pointing out that when the “right” sees the “left” failing to condemn something they themselves are quick to condemn (and vice versa regarding the “left’s” perception of the “right”), what is usually concluded by each is that a condoning disposition is being held by the other – even if the other side doesn’t necessarily condone the things they decide not to condemn.

I think it’s important to recognize that perception is never reality when perceptions are wrong, but I also think it’s helpful to realize what perceptions people have and how you are either reinforcing or countering them based on your words and conduct (or silence and inaction).

A couple more examples to illustrate this polarized state involves the most talked-about virus and various reactions to it.  Those on the “left” do not seem to condemn mandates from government, whether they be to wear a mask or inject one’s body with an experimental drug which has received emergency use authorization by a governmental agency but which the pharmaceutical industry has already or at least has the potential to profit from (even though many on the left despise big businesses for the the totally absurd amount of money they are making from this). On the other hand, those on the “right” take a more extreme approach to individual liberty and do not seem to concern themselves with the very real dangers of the virus (even though many believe it is a genetically modified bio-weapon developed through well-funded gain-of-function research, and therefore could have long-term, negative health consequences if one gets infected – cognitive dissonance is fascinating, isn’t it?!)  Complicating matters even more are those who might be on the “right” for some issues while maintaining ideas from the “left” as well – think of the fiscally conservative but socially liberal individuals…

Because disagreeing with someone usually makes you more firm in your views – as you devote time and effort researching and finding others who agree with you – the art of agreeing to disagree has been lost and, in my opinion, is one of the first things that needs to be found.  All sides should primarily concern themselves with truth and try to avoid becoming a useful idiot to either side… which is basically what someone becomes when they simply parrot a party line without doing their own research with an open mind, and at least attempting to see the merits of an opposing viewpoint.

[Quick caveat here: the words “right” and “left” are used in place of other terms which could be equally useful as labels but might be more polarizing or offensive, such as “right-wing, conservative, fundamentalist or republican” vs. “liberal, progressive, socialist, or democrat” – it’s also worth mentioning that “moderates” on these positions are hard to find, and though some might claim to be libertarians or independents, there are so few and they are not organized enough to really matter – plus they usually side with either the right or the left on the more controversial issues.]

Just a cool image I found when I searched “condemning or condoning” with duck duck go!

=================================================================================

Well, as A. D. Robles says at the end of his videos:

I hope some of you found that helpful!

Peace,

Adam

PS: I went ahead and recorded a video of myself reading the content above so it can be absorbed more quickly and efficiently… sorry Mark Dice, I forgot to hold the phone sideways!

PSS: The recording was prior to several edits to add some clarification, so what you’ll hear is the original note I wrote and it differs a little from what is written above!

Humility Month

A while back, (2012 I think), after reading one of Andrew Murray’s books, I decided to make my theme for the month of June all about Humility.

Incidentally this was actually a year before I learned that the US Government had decided to call it “Pride month” — But over the past few years I haven’t felt inclined to do what I did back then, which was to try and refrain from taking in any media for the whole month (which includes social media) — but this year, I attempted to get back at it again, so I removed some apps from my phone and for the most part it was a very productive and focused month!

I’ve wanted to share this for a while, but just didn’t ever get around to it… Now, late in the evening on the 30th from Okinawa, I finally am copying and pasting what I shared on a Telegram family update page… it’s been a while since I posted on this blog, but I think I’ll start sharing here more over the next few months or maybe next year…

Hope you all had a great month of June however you spent it, and I’ll see you in “Freedom Month” which is what I started calling July way back then too!

Peace,

Adam

Remembering what Memorial Day is all about.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on here, but perhaps this is the best day to get back to sharing some thoughts this way…  Though I am always glad to have an extra day off to catch up on things (for example a blog), but on Memorial Day, the reason for the day off always makes me sad…

I wrote about this mixture of joy and grief a couple years ago… since then, this truth has been reinforced far too many more times…

As I re-read that, even though I wrote it — I realized that I needed the reminder today as well!

The title was “Remember, Celebrate, Honor” And a lady named Jesse Brooks asked the question and shared on the linked website.

Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 8.56.08 PM.png

======================================================

“How should a Christian view Memorial Day?” you might ask…

With a mixture of sadness and joy, is my simple answer.

In Afghanistan, now 5 years ago, I was blessed to have consistent fellowship with a chaplain who said Christians should be the happiest and yet at the same time the saddest people on earth. Happy because we know the One who gives salvation by His grace, but sad because of the ones we know who reject this salvation which is offered.

Chaplain Mike Foskett and I met up 2 years ago as I was on a trip to the states for training. I visited him on the ship he was preparing to deploy on just after pulling into port. While we were in Afghanistan three years ago, we knew of servicemen and women who had died there. We both had also deployed many times and lost marines and sailors we knew more personally. On Memorial Day, we both have a mixture of sadness and joy when we think back on those who are no longer with us. Although we can have joy because those we know accepted Christ’s sacrifice will be reunited with us again in the Kingdom, we also have sadness because we know others who rejected Him and we will never see them again.  (On that trip I saw another friend – one who is no longer with us because of an unexplained suicide prior to his retirement ceremony just last month – so this Memorial Day is also a reminder of those service members who have suffered from the difficult to understand debilitating depression and sought the only way out they could see in that moment…)

Chaplain Foskett and I are not alone in this experience of loss and the joy and sorrow that accompanies it.  Many who have served in the military as well as any family members or friends who are close to the military know that with this kind of service comes great sacrifice. The weight of which is seldom fully grasped. I can’t make you grasp it by answering the question of how you should view the day we celebrate the lives of those who have given the last full measure of devotion, but I do hope to shed perhaps new light on what we can do to honor them and those they’ve left behind. I’m reminded of the Proverb “the heart knows its own bitterness and a stranger does not share in its joy” (Proverbs 14:10).

Sometimes the greatest thing we can understand is that there’s some things we’ll never understand. Experience is required to gain this kind of understanding and fortunately most won’t experience the loss of a friend in training, combat, or after the return from a deployment when some become casualties of suicide. Depending on how someone dies, the memories of that person during Memorial Day can vary in degrees of painfulness, but it’s all painful. I’ve learned that by elevating one thing we can unintentionally diminish other things so I’ll attempt to avoid doing so here. It can be very difficult to find any aspect of joy based on the circumstances surrounding the death of someone in the military. What can provide some comfort however is that “in God’s sight, the death of His faithful servants is very precious” (Psalm 116:15).

War is an ugly thing. We might not want to be judgmental of those who are ignorant of the cost of war. Those who have isolated themselves from the reality of sacrifice for this nation may be doing this on purpose!

Some service members are offended if they are thanked on Memorial Day; be patient with those who don’t understand and kindly and tactfully educate them. Forward them this blog post or some of the verses I’ve mentioned.

During this time of celebration and remembrance we gave an opportunity to be intentional with how we initiate conversations with those who have lost someone.  But how do you communicate this concept to those who have no frame of reference or even a desire to understand it? Well, maybe you can’t, sometimes it might be better just to pray God will open their eyes and they might be able to see the truth.  There’s a great example of sacrifice that God is communicating through the example given to us by our men and women in uniform; it’s the example Jesus gave a couple thousand years ago… and He wants us to remember Him as we remember our lost friends – for He alone is able to provide the comfort we really need.

Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 9.00.00 PM.pngRemembering is a big deal to God. The number of times He told the Israelites to remember should have been more than sufficient to keep them from falling into sin and worshiping other gods. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said to “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  We are forgetful people for sure. Without reminders, we simply drift and repeat the mistakes of others or even ones we’ve made ourselves.

As Jesus, Who laid down His life declared, no greater love exists than what is on display when someone selflessly sacrifices their life for another. But it should be noted however that as Christians we should not need the horrors of war to provide the opportunity to lay our lives down. We should be ready, willing and able to lay our life down 10 minutes at a time – putting the needs of others before our own.

So in summary, Christians ought to have a unique view not just of Memorial Day but of all life in general. In fact we are admonished to set our eyes not in what is seen but what is unseen. The physical is temporal but the spiritual is eternal, and so one day we will no longer celebrate Memorial Day because we will be ever with the Lord in Glory, worshiping and praising Him alone. We therefore can use Memorial Day as an awesome opportunity to do what God reminded us to do over and over again: Remember! So much honor is due to those who have laid down their lives and I believe it honors God to honor each other. My challenge to you this Memorial Day is to live it with honor.

Semper Fidelis.

Adam.

An Idea for Manly Relationships

I know it’s grace month and I’ll post my thoughts on that soon, but I’ve got two other things I hope to get on here this month and I can’t delay any longer on the first one. I think I wrote this back in Flight School, and I think I got the idea and much of the material for it from my older brother, but a few weeks ago on a trip which got extended due to bad weather, I found this and shared it with many of the Mighty Men in my life and pray they’ll take it seriously as a covenant between us. Here it is:

mens_covenant_large502Men’s Integrity Covenant and Accountability Promise

As a man of faith I believe there is a spiritual realm in which war is waged for the souls of men.  Mine is one such soul for which the evil one, Satan, has struggled long and hard to hold captive and ultimately destroy.  I know that I alone cannot defeat such a strong force of evil.  I must rely on the strength of the Holy Spirit, Who lives inside of me, and I must form alliances with other Brothers in Christ to be a more formidable and successful force against the enemy of our souls and the demons at his service.

I confess that I have not and in the future may not always choose right, but I am binding myself to this covenant that any mistakes I make, I will make known to my allies in order to ultimately succeed.  I recognize that if I let sin dwell in my members I will be destroyed by it.  Not only will my life be ruined, but I may hurt others in the process.  I do not want this to happen, nor can I allow it to happen — the cost is too great, the stakes are too high, and the reward both now and in heaven is too precious to forsake!

My flesh desires sin and lusts after all this world has to offer; however, my spirit desires righteousness and the life of abundance God promises.  I cannot allow my flesh to overtake my spirit though they wage war against each other.  I must consider, believe, reckon, and live like my flesh has been crucified with Jesus Christ; all of my sinful desires – nailed to the cross just as He was.  I must realize that my spirit has been given new life and now is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and through Christ I am already victorious – yes, even more than a conquerer through Him Who loved me!

I promise to my brothers, those holding me accountable that I will make every effort to contact them for prayer and support whenever I feel tempted and am in the position to fall.  I know that temptation will come, but that God will provide a way out so that I may endure it. I also know that the temptation will never be more than I can bear, and that it will only make me stronger if I stand up under it and don’t give in. And I know every good and perfect gift will come from the Father as He equips me for this task.

It is my plan to have regular accountability, face-to-face or via phone, text or email, Bible reading and study, as well as dedicated and focused prayer time.  I will make every effort to meet with the Lord God Almighty at least an hour each day to strengthen my relationship with Him.  I will have an action plan and implement controls and perhaps even run immediate action drills in order to prepare for temptation.  The enemy of my soul, Lucifer, will not attack straight on but will make every attempt to flank me or attack from the rear; therefore, I must be ready for anything and have gone through each scenario ahead of time.

No matter what, this war in the spiritual realm that is waged for my soul cannot be taken lightly or it will be lost, and failure is not an option for this servant of the King and warrior in God’s mighty fighting force!

Behold today is the day, put on your war face, let out your battle cry, and let the Devil and his minions — bring it on!

OOOORRAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!

Linked verses: Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:23; Proverbs 13:6; Prov 7:21; Isaiah 26:9; John 10:10; Galatians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:37;  1Peter 1:5-15; Ephesians 6:19; I Corinthians 10:13; James 1:17

Groping to Grasp God’s Grace – April’s theme

20130429-184510.jpg

I’ve attempted to start writing this a few times this month. There’s only one day left in the month and I don’t want to save it till then, so I’m just going to go to work and brain dump the lessons I’ve learned this month as God has shown me how much grace I need and how much grace He has.

I decided pretty early in the month that what I planned to give up would be “blaming others.” I think I’ve done ok with this, but I do have a tendency to blame the devil, which I’m usually quite happy to do; however I have also realized how important it is to take responsibility for my own actions since the devil rarely works alone… I actually had a very unusual thought, maybe a bit controversial, but because of how I understand “end times prophecy,” (and I can definitely be wrong) it seems to me that when the devil gets let back out at the end of the 1,000 year reign, perhaps he too is a recipient of what we could call “grace.” However, we learn through the prophetic vision of John that the devil despises God’s grace. Likewise, when we continue to reject God’s ways, we despise His grace as well, and the consequences, though at times delayed, are dire indeed!

20130429-191937.jpg
Much has been written about the grace of God, and God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense is probably the most clear and concise way of articulating this undeserved favor we receive from Him. What I think has happened with the idea of grace is a watering down of why it is necessary. The world I live in is very wrapped up in deserving or being entitled to things. We finished our Bible study on forgiveness this morning, and I explained that sometimes we don’t think people deserve to be forgiven if their apology isn’t good enough. I reminded our small group that Jesus clearly said how we should forgive and what would happen if we dont! Paul reiterated we need to forgive as we have been forgiven Another time when Jesus sent out the apostles to do God’s work, He gave them a principle that surely also applied to forgiveness – freely we have received, we ought to freely give… Even though people say “I’m sorry, but…” or “I’m sorry you were offended…” and even though we all agree that these aren’t really apologies, we need to realize, God offered forgiveness to us before we apologized to Him — Christ died for us while we were still sinners

Forgiveness is just one of many parts of life that require God’s grace, and there are so many more reasons to boldly approach God’s throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace in our time of need! But this blog post is already long enough!!!

20130429-184523.jpgI’ll just add one more thought: I was given a book by Kay Arthur which I considered trying to read this month, but I’m already in way too many books… I learned from Kay Arthur when I was a kid being taught the Precept Ministries way to study the Bible by my mother. This book is calledLord, I need grace to make it today and I think it’s one of those books you get a lot from just because of the title… Maybe during Grace Month next year I’ll read it…

For now, I must turn to “Service Month” which is 2 days away, but the lessons I’ve learned in “Grace Month” have been priceless! I hope you took away a lesson or two as well… Thanks for taking the time to join me! I know there’s other names and themes for the months that people have given them, but I read somewhere not to be conformed to this world… While being aware of alcohol abuse or sexual assault is very important, I believe God’s grace alone is sufficient, and I want to give my utmost to make people aware of that fact!

20130429-184635.jpg

Grace & Peace,
Adam

Linked verses: 2 Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 2:7, Revelation 20, Matthew 18:22, Mark 11:26, Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 10:8, Romans 5:8, Hebrews 4:16, Romans 12:2

A dissenting view to my 1000 year reign understanding can be found: here.

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy – A Meditation for March

20130318-230706.jpg

“The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases, His mercy never comes to an end.” Lamentations 3:22

This one is hard for me. I’m not naturally merciful. My wife is. I have a friend, who’s been a mentor for a long time, and he’d say he’s not naturally merciful either. His wife is. I can’t think of a more contrasting relationship than the ones where the wife’s gift is mercy, and the husband’s gift appears to be “emotionless” punishment. But I’m sure that many people have experienced this and seen how God can make it work.

I’m past the half way point in this month and wish I would have committed the time to write about this topic sooner. I feel like I should have put more thought into mercy early on. I don’t think I could ever put enough thought into mercy… Perhaps that’s why God gave me a wife who is so good at it – a constant reminder of what I need!

I would like to get systematic with these monthly meditations to prevent this procrastination… I remember last September I did a better job of preparing for “Praise and Worship month” — I tried to remember to say Hallelujah at least 10 times a day, and it was awesome! Maybe for the rest of this month I’ll start each day with the prayer of the tax collector: “Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

As I try to think of things to give up during this month’s meditation, I’m sure my son would be happy if I decided not to punish him… But God says through the wisdom of Solomon that to fail to discipline a son shows hate for him! Another prophet says that God requires us to love mercy, but God disciplines the ones He loves. So there’s a pretty solid connection between love and discipline as well as the unity between mercy and love – often those words are used interchangeably in different translations. Psalm 136 is a great place to see that.

20130318-230717.jpg
So I’ll close with a couple conclusions as I continue this crusade of compassion. 1) I will give up getting angry when I discipline my children, and 2) I will take up a more understanding disposition to instruct them in the right way hopefully preventing punishment for doing things the wrong way.

I am enjoying the flow from February to April of Love to Grace with Mercy in the middle. I didn’t plan that. Each monthly meditation mysteriously manifest itself in my mind last year. I personally believe God wants me to become better at showing these traits, and I’m praying His Holy Spirit teaches me how!

Have mercy on me… This might take a while!

Peace,
Adam

Linked verses:
Luke 18:13
Proverbs 13:24
Micah 6:8
Hebrews 12:6

God’s Love – February’s Focus

20130214-194653.jpg

Someone once said “all you need is love.” And while I tend to agree with the sentiment, my rationalizing mind rejects the notion vehemently, as I think of oxygen, food and water, etc… MOOP needs a lot more than love, BUT I AM spending this month thinking about just how much I need it!

In a Bible Study I am involved with we’ve been discussing the 3 things that remain, endure, last for all times: Faith, Hope and Love. The “Love Chapter” ends by stating that “the greatest of these is love.” I caution people against elevating one thing because of the natural result of diminishing everything else. This happens because we’re fallen and unbalanced people who can’t see clearly enough to recognize our own faults many times and need other people to serve as mirrors for our selfish souls. I believe that only God can elevate one thing above others without diminishing the value of those other things. He’s God. He can do whatever He wants. And He’s the One Who breathed this Scripture into existence so, I trust Him at His word even though I only understand it “in part.”

We’ve had a great time over the past 2 weeks at this early morning fellowship just talking about faith, hope and love, and asking questions about each. I’ve learned a lot about how much I need to intentionally focus on showing love. I’ve also learned that it’s not enough to just show love the way I think love is shown, but rather, I need to study people and find out how they receive love. Just about everyone had heard of “the love languages” and the books written about them. I’d wager though, that among those who’ve heard about this concept, its only a small percentage of people that actually understands, believes, and puts it into practice. I sure don’t! It’s a lifelong quest! But this will be the month I focus specifically on learning more about this verb of love, and to what I hope will be the delight of my wife: practicing speaking her love language!

Lastly, since I want these monthly focuses to be two fold: taking up something AND giving up something else, I plan to refrain from what I think is the opposite of love: selfishness. I want to make sure my time is not only seen by me as MY time, and I’ll do my best to keep that in mind as I set my sights on loving like Jesus loved.

Be blessed as you give and receive the greatest of these, my friends!

In His Love,
Adam

20130214-194706.jpg
Oh, and happy Valentines Day!

Aside

Perfect Peace – January’s theme

glowing-text-read-peace

Writing something that is forced is difficult.  It’s difficult to be at peace at the end of a week like the one we just had.  Ask my wife, and she’ll tell you – “difficult” is the understatement of a lifetime.  Sickness has a way of stealing our peace, among other things.  But tonight, after many things have “worked themselves out,” and we appear to be out of the woods with the illnesses, it seems peaceful.  Therefore I write feeling a little less forced than I did with that first sentence.

There are many passages in Scripture that talk about peace, and anyone reading this doesn’t need me to go on and on about them, you can google the word “peace” + the word “Bible” and have quite the plethora of resources right in front of you.  I just did it.  The results are good.  The third one on the list is my favorite, and my theme verse for this month: “You [God] will keep him [me] in perfect peace whose mind is set stedfast on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) And the next verse says that “in the Lord is everlasting strength.” That reminds me of the Reagan era motto: “Peace through Strength,”  I’ve even got a ball cap with that on it.  But tonight I’d like to go a different direction with peace, and this will be my meditation for the month of January:White Flag of Surrender

Peace through surrender.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be placed on the South Korea trip.  While there, we were fortunate enough to get a tour of the DMZ.  I learned a lot that day.  I thought the Korean War was over.  It’s not.  Sure, they’ve got a cease-fire agreement, which is supposed to have ended it, and we (the USA) aren’t fighting over there anymore, but technically the two countries are still at war.
Why?
Because neither side has surrendered.
Then I thought of all the wars since WWII which have “ended.”
DMZ N and S Korea DMZ

I also thought of the current wars.

I realized that it costs a lot to make the other side surrender, and it costs even more to be the side that surrenders. I realized that not many are willing to pay those costs – neither the cost to force it or the cost associated with agreeing to it.

I can’t help but apply this spiritually.  I think there are many who think the battle with evil is over, that because they believe in Jesus, they have some sort of “cease-fire agreement” with the devil.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our enemy is very active, and we must fight against his forces – we’re equipped and empowered to do so.  What we need to realize however is that the battle belongs to the Lord.  That’s where the Isaiah 26 passage and many others come to assist us.  All of these Scriptures declare the necessary centrality of surrender to the King of Kings – the Lord Who is a Warrior, Who fights for us, raises up a standard against our enemy, surrounds us with a wall of fire and is a shield around us and a strong tower for us to run into.  But there is a cost associated with finding this peace through surrender, it’s the cost associated with discipleship, and the cost of discipleship is great; but oh so worth it!

horse35
I pray you would find the peace that is beyond comprehension, that passes all understanding, I pray your hearts would be guarded and your mind would be shielded.  I pray you’ll think on these things.  I think it’s a great way to start the year!

Peace,

Adam

Linked verses:
Isaiah 26:3 (of course) and vs 4 too
Revelation 19:16, Exodus 15:3, Deuteronomy 1:30, Isaiah 59:19, Zechariah 2:5, Psalm 3:3, Proverbs 18:10
Luke 14:33 Matthew 11:28
Phil 4:6-7 & vs 8 as well