“MORE” Reality…

I resolved to make 2019 the “Year of More.” In all the resolutions I made…

  • More stillness
  • More service
  • More exercise
  • More writing
  • More love
  • More sleep

…there’s one very important “more” that I overlooked, and that is to be more Christ-like. Isn’t that the “more” that matters most? I must confess there are many days I fall far short of the goal, yet I am reminded of Jesus’ own words to his disciples:

13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. (John 13: 13 – 17 NLT)

The Apostle Paul’s words also remind me that my calling (please read this as “our” calling) is to become like Jesus:

29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8: 29 NLT)

How might I become “more” Christ-like in 2019?

MORE CENTERED

Jesus centered his life in Scripture. He answered the temptations of Satan by the power of Scripture, and he began his earthly ministry moving out of Galilee into Capernaum in fulfillment of Scripture. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus life and words pointed to the fulfillment of Scripture.

Scripture is at the heart of spiritual growth. If we desire to hear God’s voice clearest and loudest, it will be through God’s Word, the Bible. We can live a more centered in Scripture as we worship, participate in group Bible studies, and spend personal devotional time with the Bible.

Of course, being more centered will cause me to be still more, which was my first resolution, so maybe I’m on the right track after all.

MORE CHANGED

Jesus began his earthly ministry with a call to repentance. Repentance is a call to change our minds about sin—literally to do a 180. I’m not sure my greatest sin is pride, but it’s up there on the list. Probably topping the list is selfishness. Every other challenge to my desire to be more Christ-like flows out of that innate proclivity for wanting my own way.

Repentance that is meaningful repentance is more than a changed mind. I think it is a changed mind that leads to changed actions. I also think it not a one-time thing. Repentance is an on-going process…at least it is in my life.

MORE CONNECTED

Jesus invited his first disciples to be connected to him, and to one another. We are connected to Christ most fully when we are connected to his body, the Church. And, we become more Christ-like the more we are connected to his body.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for pastors to make friends in the body. Ron Edmondson has written about that here. It doesn’t change the fact that I need more connection.

MORE COMMITTED

I think about Jesus’ first disciples who, when called by Jesus, left their nets and their tax-collecting table immediately and followed him. Am I as committed as those first disciples? Am I willing to drop everything…even the pastorate (the source of my livelihood)…to follow his calling?

Seriously, what would I do if Jesus walked into my office today and said, “Come, follow me”? I’d probably say, “I thought I was following you.” Just the idea of that conversation frightens me and causes me to reflect on my commitment of Jesus.

One of the most challenging books I’ve read recently (or ever) is Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church. Here’s a video describing the book’s premise. Chan’s book caused me to question so many assumptions about “church,” but it also helped renew my commitment to it…and to Jesus.

MORE CONSECRATED

To be consecrated is to be “set apart for special service.” Jesus consecrated his life for preaching, teaching and healing knowing that it would lead ultimately to the cross. His consecration led to his sacrifice. How is my life set apart for greater sacrifice? What sacrifice is God calling me to in order to be more consecrated to his purpose?

I earnestly desire to be more Christ-like, but this “Year of More” is looking MORE difficult by the day. Perhaps I should have been LESS bold in proclaiming it so.

Where is God challenging you to be more Christ-like? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Until next time, keep looking up…

When Fast is Fast Enough (or, Eight Lessons from a Facebook Fast)…

There will be a bit of irony in this post. I can’t help that (well, I guess I could help it, but then I wouldn’t write this post and you wouldn’t have this post to read–not that you’re going to read it, but…). It’s ironic that I’m using social media to share lessons learned while on a social media fast, but this is the 21st Century, so what’ s a guy to do?

facebookfast2I did a twenty-six day Facebook fast in July. Why twenty-six days, you ask? I originally planned for the entire month of July, but then I realized that my wife was going on the youth mission trip and would be posting photos and updates on the trip and I wanted to keep up with the group and with her, so I broke the fast on the 26th of July. There are a few lessons I learned about social media, Facebook and myself during those twenty-six days. I thought I would share those this morning. The lessons I learned are:

  1. I missed Facebook for, oh, about one day. I learned I didn’t really miss it at all. The longer I got into the fast the less I thought about logging on to check my newsfeed, or other people’s status updates.
  2. I learned that Facebook was limiting my creativity. My productivity soared during those twenty-six days. I wasn’t constantly checking updates.
  3. I learned that Facebook was hindering my spirituality. I spent more time in the Bible early in the morning instead of scrolling through the newsfeed to see what I missed overnight–like why would I even care what happened?
  4. I learned that people are not nearly as interested in my life as I think they are. A Facebook fast can be very humbling! Not once in the twenty-six days did anyone ask me about my latest status.
  5. I learned that I don’t need to share with the world every thought that comes into my head. I had a tendency to share random thoughts posted as status updates on my “wall.” Most of those random thoughts are probably more suited to Twitter, but I just don’t use Twitter that much. Actually, I discovered that I didn’t really miss other people’s random thoughts. It dawned on me–why would other people miss my random thoughts (outside my mother and my wife, perhaps).
  6. I learned I wasn’t as angry all the time. A huge percentage of what people post is negative and divisive. It’s impossible to filter everything, and as I scrolled I couldn’t help but catch a headline denouncing “conservative” Christians, or “progressive” Christians, or the President, or the “Republicans,” or whom or whatever. Scrolling my Facebook newsfeed, I was always angry, that’s just not very Christ-like, and for as much as I fall short, I sincerely want to be more Christ-like. Oh, my…and the comments! People can be down-right mean. I didn’t miss many of the comments, at all!
  7. I learned I wasn’t offended all the time. In tandem with number six, there are a lot of offensive posts on Facebook. The most offensive thing is stupidity, and there is much that is stupid posted on Facebook (confession: I’ve even posted stupid things before).
  8. I learned that “real” life is in the real world. I was much more deeply engaged with the people around me instead of the people in the device in my hand or on my desk. I now wonder how much “real” life I actually missed by being logged on so much previously. After all, we know people post on Facebook mostly those things that make them look good (excluding, of course the occasional drama king or queen who insists on posting the latest sad tale of their life–yes, Facebook can become very narcissistic!), so what I was seeing wasn’t “real” life, at all.

Here are a few tips that I am employing as I re-engage with Facebook and other social media (though, I’m not greatly connected outside Facebook). Maybe they’ll help you if you’re feeling the need to be a little less connected.

  • Remove the Facebook app (or Twitter, or Instagram, or Pinterest, or Vine, or…whatever your social media of choice is) from your smartphone. And, log out from your social media accounts when you’re done. If you must access social media, access it through your browser app. I discovered the longer it takes to log in to something, the less I’m likely to do it.
  • Do not stay logged in to Facebook while you’re working. It’ll be a distraction from the work in front of you.
  • Turn off your push notifications. You don’t need to know every time someone tags you in a photo, or mentions your name in a status update.
  • Calendar your time to be on social media. I’ve discovered if I put something on my calendar, I generally abide by the calendar. Social media isn’t a bad thing, so it’s not to be avoided at all costs. Simply be intentional about the time spent on social media. If you want 30 minutes a day, okay. Calendar 30 minutes a day. Then, stick to it.

Let me encourage you to un-plug, even if it’s only for a day or two. Seriously, it will deepen your spiritual life if the first thing you pick up in the morning is a Bible instead of a smartphone or tablet. Maybe this post was helpful. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, you can check it out on Facebook or Twitter, and that’s quite ironic, isn’t it?

Until next time, keep looking up…