It’s too easy to live by duty, the expectation of others, the inertia of culture…

Quote

For us as individuals, the danger is that we might never develop an inner life. It is easy to life by duty, the expectation of others, the routines of our work and the inertia of culture and religious traditions. Surely what we long for, though, is an authentic interior life in which we know to the core of our beings that the Spirit of God is present to us and speaking life to us — a life that is personally and dynamically our own. With a well-developed interior life, we live our lives in response to the Spirit. We choose to live that which we are called to live — our life, not someone else’s life. 1

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17. Emphasis added.
 

Some wonderful (& terrible) reasons why I run.

Father & son at the finish line of my first race (Shamrock Run 15K on St. Patrick's Day 2013)

Father & son at the finish line of my first race (Shamrock Run 15K on St. Patrick’s Day 2013)

I was an active kid. If you’re curious at all what I was like as a wee lad, then watch my son for a bit. Yep, I talked to myself, ran around a lot, loved being outdoors, played with bugs and spiders, and could get lost in space between the words and white space of a good book, pictures optional. I’m a brown-and-grey-haired version of #Dutchumentary. He and #Heidirooni are so active, fun and free. As much as depends upon me, I want to be there as they grow up.

It was a sad lack-of-activity-ness coupled with natural curiosity that got me back into running a few years back. This November will be four years since I took a mile jog to see if my left foot could withstand the pounding. That’s the foot I ran over with our Jeep Wrangler before the kids were born. (Yes, you read that correctly. Turns out it is possible to run over your own foot with your own car, provided it has a short wheel base.) Essentially my left heel became the emergency break, and a small metatarsal fracture latter and subsequently minus having a healthy fascia (foot arch) meant I was wincing in pain.

Father & daughter at the finish line of my first 5K race (Freedom 5K in Molalla on 7/4/13)

Father & daughter at the finish line of my first 5K race (Freedom 5K in Molalla on 7/4/13)

So, “I can” is the first reason why I run. It beats sitting all day, which is killing us (and negating the good of exercise). Plus, I’d like to make a runner out of you, since there are so many health benefits from running, even surprising ones.

Ran 7.6 miles in Nov. 2010, then 384 total in 2011, 813 in 2012, and 1,234 miles in 2013. In 2014 I've logged half of this year's goal of 1,420 miles.

Ran 7.6 miles in Nov. 2010, then 384 total in 2011, 813 in 2012, and 1,234 miles in 2013. In 2014 I’ve logged half of this year’s goal of 1,420 miles.

Borrowing the title for this post from the Oatmeal’s comic creator, here are seven-and-a-half more reasons why I run, since that’s my current average per mile training pace.

  1. running = sweating = laundrying

    running = sweating = laundrying

    Running is fun. At first it was anything but fun. I think those first miles returning to running in 2010 were a brisk eleven minutes a mile. Couldn’t tell what was worse: aching legs or burning lungs. What happened to me? Why couldn’t I just get out there and run fast and far? Being thirty-something and sedentary really stung. I vaguely remember the good ol’ days of being young and athletic, and now was neither. But you know what’s fun? Setting small goals and reaching them. And setting some more. And your wife noticing and saying you don’t seem so out-of-shape anymore. Continue reading

 

Making prayer happen.

I am rediscovering a desire to pray for people, leading them in God’s strength not mine. I’ve hit the wall too many times trying to ’make things happen’ on my own. The quoted section below confronted me a few months back and before sharing I wanted to see if I was growing and changing. Well, a prayer life develops in the way Spring comes: slowly and suddenly.

Prayer is essentially acknowledged helplessness. We ask God for his glory, for his help, for his will, and for his favor because we know we are powerless to “make things happen” ourselves. (Consequently, when we are not praying much, it is typically because we think, even in our difficulty, that we can handle it.) To “clothe yourselves in humility” (1 Pet. 5:5) is to put on the righteousness of Christ (Eph. 6:4), because he humbled himself from heaven to earth, gave up the exploitation of his deity, and prayed his guts out.

If the sinless God-man often withdrew to lonely places to pray, what is our excuse? Prayer is the ultimate humility, because it presents the empty cup to God for his fullness in Christ. “Your will, not mine,” prayer says. “Your glory, not mine,” prayer says. “Your power, not mine,” prayer says.

Certainly there is a way pastors 1 turn prayer into performance, but it’s difficult to do this when we are all alone, so that is where we should do most of our praying. Not all of it, but most of it.

You may think your prayers are nothing to write home about. That’s fine. You are not writing home, but heaven. God is merciful. He accepts your lame prayers. What he wants is nor your eloquence but your heart.

When we cease praying for ourselves, it is because we think we are the captain of our destinies. When we cease praying for our church, it is because we think we can manage it quite well. When we cease praying in our sermon preparation, it is because we think our words are the power of salvation to all who believe. Let it be far away from us that we would sin against the Lord by failing to pray for [His] people (1 Sam. 12:23). 2

  1. And anyone else with a spiritual leadership role, whether in the home as father and mother, husband and wife, or a teacher of kids at church. Essentially, anyone who has others “watching” as they pray in public.
  2. Quoted from Jared Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry. Part 1, The Pastor’s Heart, chapter three, “The Humble Pastor,” pp. 68-69. Emphasis mine.
 

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? (Do what’s best next!)

“Every Christian must be fully Christian by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some spiritual realm.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What do you do? What’s your vocation, the good contribution to the greater good you get to carve out and work on each day?

Do you ever feel conflicted, as if your job is less important than all that spiritual stuff you could be doing for God? You have lots to get done, but the “spiritual” people are telling you to just relax, quit trying so hard, and ‘let go and let God.’1 Do you feel that faux guilt? What is a responsible person to do?

If you’re productive, resourceful and hard-working, you press on through. You’re responsible for people, projects and tasks. Are you supposed to sit and read your Bible and pray all day when your job is to lead, decide, invent, confront and create?

It seems we pastors are suddenly realizing that people have jobs and life and stress, and it isn’t just the ‘religious professionals’ who are doing God’s work. (Yep, I can admittedly be pretty slow to see others’ contributions in God’s mission.) This is a good development. Yet to be honest, I think we pastors tend to have a skewed view of work — and aren’t known for possessing the best work ethic in general — so we’re not really the best in equipping people to work with all their might.

Where can people turn to learn how to get things done, from a godly perspective?

I’ve read numerous books on productivity, including David Allen’s Getting Things Done. My copy is highlighted all over, and I keep it near my desk for reference. GTD was really helpful for a guy who tries to do too much, too fast, all at once. (Yep, I’m a recovering multitasker.) Yet, I couldn’t adopt the ‘system’ wholesale, partly because of the spiritual nature of my work. Something annoyed me about all these business leadership books. They’re all about self-empowerment and emphasize self-actualization. Potential is a terrible thing to waste. But is it the worst thing to waste?

Enter a site like whatsbestnext.com. For years Matt Perman has been faithfully writing on productivity from a God-centered emphasis. God’s glory is the most terrible thing to waste, and we have a responsibility to honor and reflect Him in all we do (and why we do it). Motivation matters. Matt’s a consummate learner, and thoughtful reflector on all he learns and does. Leaders are readers; leaders are also doers. Been reading his blog for years, yet wondered when he’s go deeper in equipping Christian leaders, publishing an accessible book. Alas, here it is.
What's Best Next
Matt Perman says why he wrote the new book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, which released this week:

“My aim in this book is to reshape the way you think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help you become more effective in your life with less stress and frustration, whatever you are doing.
I want to help you live the life that God has called you to live, and to live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. If you are an executive, I want to help you be a better executive. If you are a homemaker, to be a better homemaker. If you are a pastor, to be a better pastor. If you are a creative professional, to be a better creative professional. If you are a missionary, to be a better missionary. And if you don’t know what life God has called you to live, I want to help you find it.”

In fact, I am convinced that this book will be helpful for anyone wanting to get things done. Obviously, for Christians, yet also for anyone. If you buy one for a non-Christian (or not-yet-Christian) business leader, and they don’t find it imminently helpful, I will buy it back from them. Seriously.

Perman knows that bad productivity approaches are annoying. And stresses that managing ourselves well is foundational to all we do. Plus, if you’re more efficient, you’ll be more effective, and thus be able to do more good for others. (See, it’s not about you!) In 350+ pages, coupled with a thorough table of contents and some fabulous appendices for quick reference, What’s Best Next will help you create a productivity approach that works, and helps you do more good for others.

Another quick excerpt:

Continue reading

  1. I find the phrase “Let go and let God” to be lazy and unhelpful. It doesn’t reflect the message of Jesus, which would be more like: “Trust Me, rest in Me. And get to work doing what I want you to do.”
 

What is poverty?

What if poverty isn’t about a lack of food, money, or clothing?

What if our attempts to help the poor can actually hurt them?

Good intentions aren’t enough.

Brian Fikkert—co-author of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself 1, and founder and executive director of the Chalmers Center (whose vision is for “local churches to declare and demonstrate to people who are poor that Jesus Christ is making all things new”)—looks at the deeper meaning of poverty [video]:

We were created for a relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

It’s a beautiful mess.

Let us commit to learning together how we can walk with the poor in humble relationships, rather than only providing temporary handouts to them. We cannot “fix” them. Only Jesus can.

I too am poor.

You are too. 

Continue reading

  1. I can think of no better book on poverty and truly helping the poor than When Helping Hurts (AmazonWTS Books).
 

Bravery: risk-taking faith.

True discipleship is radical and risk-taking, because true disciples rely on God to keep his promises to bless them, and not on their own instincts, plans, or insurance policies.

It is hard to be truly brave without faith in God. The kind of bravery that does not arise out of faith in God is adventurism, or macho heroism, or plain cruelty. It can be rooted in insecurity, or a desperation to prove oneself, or hopelessness. Only faith-based bravery will walk the line between atrocities on the one side, and cowardice and ineffectiveness on the other.
—Timothy Keller, Judges For You