Redirection

Last year, my writer and blogger friends from my local critique group convinced me that a blog is supposed to stick to a main theme. I started my first blog as a mish-mash of topics that I felt passionate about, and I was told that was not the way to go.

I split off three topics into three additional theme-focused blogs, and this was the blog for all matters spiritual.

Mostly through my lack of effort, this plan hasn’t worked the way I’d like it to. 1) Keeping 4 blogs “current” with new content is far more challenging and requires a level of effort I obviously cannot provide. 2) I’m led to believe that what matters most is not theme but passion. Readers want entries written not to fill content for content’s sake, but to express what’s on the writer’s heart. Despite a variety of topics on my original blog, people still find the topics they want and respond to the best of my writing.

Therefore I will not be updating this blog any more. I am going to consolidate back to one blog.

I deeply and sincerely appreciate all of you who followed this blog and responded to my writing here, whether through comments, likes, or simply views. I will of course continue writing about spiritual matters, so if you haven’t already followed my main blog and would like to, please check out SonWorshiper.

How We Rise: The Steve Nash Story

I have some additional thoughts on this, but I found Mr. Sanders’ comments to be very accurate. I believe these same lessons apply to the spiritual life as well as the everyday life this post probably intends to address. When God calls us to a mission or project, we’re there not to show off our own greatness, but to lift everyone else up, thus making the whole effort more successful. Consider the Apostle Paul’s statement about the parts of the body and how each needs the other to succeed. (1 Cor 12)
We’re given grace – divine empowerment – to make a change and live as God desires. Grace covers our sins but never excuses our sins. It “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness” and yes to divine purpose (Titus 2:11-12). Grace is neither license nor liberty to accept less than our best effort.
What will we do with the talents and the grace God pours out on us today?

The Better Man Project ™

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In college, one of my professors told me a story about Steve Nash and how he viewed his success in the NBA. Apparently Nash had told a reporter that his goal wasn’t to be the best player on his team, but to be the guy who made every other teammate the best they could possibly be. He knew that if he raised everyone else up that the team had a much better chance to succeed. That was his goal.

Tonight is just going to be full of memories from the past…just an FYI.

My dad taught me once that you always operate on an equation when you are going after a goal. He told me that your excitement for success has to be greater than your fear of failure. Of course, this is a sliding scale and you move back and forth from time to time, but in all, you…

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Making Room {Are you celebrating the reason or the season?}

I found this writer’s experience called my own celebration of Emmanuel into question. Is “God with us” so we can decorate, eat, and get more stuff?

Dancing On My Ashes

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

Our Christmas construction paper chain is getting SHORTER! My boys (ages: 6 and 4) love to take turns tearing off a chain link as they jump and dance about:

“Only 17 more days!”

“16 more days!”

“15 MORE DAYS until CHRISTMAS!”

The sad thing is, up until now, every morning as they tear off the paper ring, I feel anxiety rush over me. As they are celebrating, my eyes glaze over as I’m internally groaning: “Oh NO! ONLY 15 more days! AHHHH… I have so much to do!”

Until I made room.

Sweet Mary, moments away from giving birth, was told, “There’s no room for you here.”

This became one of the themes of Jesus’ life: “There’s no room for you.” He pressed against culture, religion, purpose, and what others considered truth, as many encounters left Jesus feeling the breeze of the door slam in His…

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Old Reliable

How many blog posts have you seen that start with an apology?

“Hey, sorry for not posting for so long. I had some projects at work, and then my mother-in-law came to visit, and then I got sick all weekend…”

I imagine all bloggers start out eager and excited, planning on regular posting. But life often gets in the way of our best intentions. And yet reliability is one of the hallmarks of building a strong platform in social media.

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, posted a blog recently listing reasons he stopped reading your blog. One of the reasons given was unreliable or infrequent posting. The apology post also appears on every list of “blog posts no one wants to see” that I’ve ever read.

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I say this only with fingers pointed at me (as this screen cap of my post dates will bear out). But if the critique fits, then take it in the constructive and encouraging way it’s meant:

People aren’t interested in intentions.

What’s the solution? Consistent action.

Maybe that means scheduling out posts well in advance, or structuring realistic goals like one post a week. Perhaps it means blocking out a portion of the day for interaction on social sites, or for writing and editing the next blog. It definitely means we avoid being haphazard, only posting when we feel like it.

Spirituality is like a platform, because we have a message we want to get out to the noisy world that may or may not be listening. Just like successful blogs and social media efforts, the message we communicate has to be reliable. If I never speak about my faith, it’s hard to believe that’s a powerful or important part of my life.

Our spiritual platform – just like social media – is born out of discipline and consistency. We do the little things, the day-in day-out basics of living out our faith, the stuff no one applauds or even likely sees. In this way, we develop patterns and habits that serve us well when crises arise.

My pastor from when I was a child posted a story about a fellow believer, a widow of a pastor who was murdered two months ago. My former pastor and an elder paid this lady a visit with the hopes of encouraging her by presence if not by words. He wrote, “She didn’t express anger or bitterness (though I could understand it if she did.) Willie and I went to encourage her, and we left encouraged by her!”

He then made this key insight:
“Such true Christlikeness isn’t acquired in a crisis. She has lived consistently for God over time and now, in the midst of the storm, her faith is made manifest. I was deeply moved. I want to be like her — as she is like Christ.”

We have the option to dabble in a hobby, post a blog now and then, share some thoughts, maybe read a Bible verse or “like” a spiritual post on Facebook. We can have the Sunday spirituality in a life that otherwise leaves out Christ.

But then we have no spiritual platform to stand on, no compelling reason for the crowd to stop and listen to what we have to say.

Platform Check

At our recent Christian Writers’ group meeting, Angela D. Meyer spoke with the group about building a platform.

If you’re not familiar, the “platform” is the collection of people whose eyes are going to see and engage with a given person’s social media and marketing presence. It’s not merely how many followers you have on your blog, or how many Likes you have on Facebook. It’s about how many people will probably take the time to pay attention to what you have to say, through whatever avenues you communicate.

Your platform is what gets you heard in the sea of shouting voices.

This little book you've likely never heard of

This little book you’ve likely never heard of

Michael Hyatt has a fantastic book all about it. If you’re blogging, you probably already knew about that.

Yesterday, I was reading some posts online and reflecting on what I understand about building a platform. I took some time to start up an account on Google Plus. I also engaged in a limited discussion on Twitter. And in the middle of that, a question came to mind:

How effective is my Christian platform?

Am I thinking about how many people I can reach with the Gospel? Not exactly. I’m not counting Facebook friends and associations on LinkedIn. Nor am I getting ready to up my social media Bible-thumping with posts you should “Share unless you’re ashamed of Jesus” or pictures of Scripture verses superimposed on sunsets. And I am not thinking of how many people pack into the church on Sunday, nor am I looking at all of them as potential targets of my marketing campaign.

I’m thinking that the principles of building an online platform can in many ways apply to how I live my life as a follower of Christ with a message I want to share and a world that generally isn’t interested.

With that in mind, I’m going to post about platform for a while, both how it works in the world of social media, and how I believe it applies to my faith.

For example, a friend started a blog recently, and his first post discussed changing his business model from trying to attract interest in his product to showing interest in the lives of others. Instead of hocking his wares and chasing down disinterested customers, he started spending a little effort to chat with folks, one person to another, simply showing interest in them as valuable people.

Once he got to know them a bit, and more importantly, they got to know him, he was able to adjust his pitch to their individual needs to find out whether they would be interested in his product.

It’s the old saw that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

As a blogger, I can rant and rave and become one of the spamming hordes that comment on random posts with “Hey good blog check out mine here’s the link.” No one wants that. That doesn’t build a platform, because it doesn’t build relationships. It’s the door-to-door method, the street-corner preacher yelling at anyone in earshot.

I would much rather find some people with similar interests, people who have a unique voice, plain folk with whom I can relate as plain folk. Often, they have things to say that I need to hear. I have to hope that sometimes what I say benefits them. If nothing else, we interact with each other and share life as much as one can over a blog.

I think of one of the blogs I follow, that of “an Opinionated Man.” He has a horde of followers, in part because I think he lives online, given how much he interacts with all of them. He certainly speaks his mind and communicates his message. But he also makes effort to listen to others, and that wins people over. That connection, for me, is part of how a platform is built.

Now, as I type all this, I can almost hear some say, “Christ is the Foundation, the Gospel is the message, nothing else is needed.”

That’s where they’re wrong. But that will be the next post.

Let me know in a comment what you think about the importance of relationships to building a platform – social or spiritual.

Who Is My Neighbor?

A friend of mine who is an evangelistic atheist posted a video of Christians spewing hate (or “sharing the Gospel” as they would say) about homosexuality. Some folk showed up to protest Pastor Charles Worley, he of the electric fence concentration camp solution to the presence of homosexuals in our society. A batch of vocal protestors showed up to protest the protest. Then another organization showed up to protest the protest of the protest.

Maybe it’s best if you just watch the video.

Then again, maybe not.

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My friend said this is the kind of thing that supporting Christian thought will encourage. This, he claimed, is what Christianity is about. I argued with my friend that the folks captured on video spitting venom are poor examples of Christianity, based on Christ’s statement that there are two greatest commandments on which everything else depends:

Love God fully.
Love others like you love yourself.

We went back and forth about what counts as “basic tenets” of religion. My point was Christ gets to declare what should be emphasized in the faith that bears His name.

That’s the backstory. Then my friend posted this linkabout military chaplains.

What is the purpose of a chaplain? How, in this arm of government called the military, do we justify mingling church and state? We allow it because, while chaplains are endorsed by a specific religious organization, they are trained to serve all members of the military regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. They’re there to serve all.

They have one job. Meet the spiritual needs of members of the armed forces.

The Southern Baptist Convention issued guidelines stating their chaplains cannot serve openly gay members except for telling them to repent. They cannot work with openly gay chaplains or those who approve of homosexuality – and I imagine that means anyone who doesn’t condemn homosexuality enough. They cannot counsel same-sex married couples.

What does this achieve? Okay, the SBC is opposed to homosexuality and strongly affirms what the Bible says about it. Did everyone not get the memo? I’m pretty sure there was no doubt.

But why this one thing? If you’re going to instruct your chaplains to abdicate their responsibilities towards all servicemembers, why choose this?
Are SBC chaplains not permitted to work with other faiths? If a Buddhist approaches a chaplain, needing to talk, does the SBC chaplain say, “Well, can’t help you with your difficulties. All I can say is repent.” Do they not provide marital counseling to atheist couples? What about couples with marital infidelity going on? If they believe what the Bible says, do they get to choose which form of sexual immorality is the really bad one, and which we can overlook?

Is there a pride test chaplains can give all customers before providing services? Because God is pretty adamant about pride being a sin, one that Scripture says God directly opposes instead of merely condemns.

The comments on the video my friend posted also point out that some of those vocal protesters are on the chunky side. “Gluttony is a sin too,” they say. “Why don’t you protest that?”

People see this behavior from Christians, both individuals and organizations. And they walk away further convinced that Christians are judgmental hypocrites.

“Love God. Love others.” When Jesus said that, no one caught Him in hypocrisy. His actions measured up to His words, and vice versa. Those of us who bear His name should reconsider what He set as our priorities.

SBC, take note. Jesus already issued guidance. He said, “You have one job: Love.”

With Eyes of Faith

I’m waiting for my daughter, standing in the back of her youth group, watching how these young people are interacting. The music is a touch louder than I might prefer. The speaker and the singers scream a bit more than I’m used to. My bee girl is sitting by herself, and the worried dad in me hopes she hasn’t been left alone the whole night.

The service is wrapping up, they’re all singing one more song. Some friends join my daughter, and everyone is called to the front.

The speaker offers a simple invitation to relationship and life in Christ. A couple hands shoot up. Cheers break out. Applause echoes through the room.

The realist in me knows that so many youth from my generation turned away from their faith as young adults.

Worried dad hopes my daughter doesn’t join their ranks.

The cynic hopes those raised hands are sincere.

But eyes of faith picture angels rejoicing as lost sheep are found.

And worried dad remembers the Father’s arms wrapping around this prodigal son when i wandered off years ago.

So i look at my daughter in the crowd, and I know it’s going to be all right.

Prioritizing Our Hopes

The abundant life — the true abundant life Christ spoke of — is found not in earthly stability but in eternal security.

My hope is fixed on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Unshakable Hope

When you go through a trial, especially an extended trial that disrupts or even destroys your earthly hopes and dreams, you either learn to focus and depend more on your eternal hope or slide further into despair.

I imagine that every Christian that has gone through an extended trial will remember coming to this difficult crossroad and facing this choice. In truth, seek firstit’s a decision we should have made when we committed to follow Christ – whether or not we were going through a trial at the time. By definition, a Christian is someone whose primary hope is an eternal hope in Christ.

“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Hebrews 6:18-20)

I know that God wants us to have hopes in and…

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Get Daddy

There’s something to be said for simplicity.

At church yesterday morning, after the service, I was waiting to speak with the pastor who gave the message. Someone else was talking with him, and a child probably two or three years old bounded down the aisle of the sanctuary toward the man, calling out a sing-song “I’m ‘onna get mah Daddy… I’m ‘onna get mah Daddy…”

And I thought about worship, specifically how I approach it. Or maybe better stated, how I approach God.

It’s easy to fixate on what we do, wherever we minister. Sometimes I can even think about how I do that ministry, to see if there’s a way I could do it better. But so much of my thought is on the technical details, the processes, the cooperation with others toward the goal. It’s not always about a simple act of relationship to God.

Maybe that’s a part of what it means to “do everything as unto The Lord.” We don’t work for a mean boss who demands perfection and threatens to dock our pay or make us work overtime. Maybe doing my ministry – whatever that may be – is like a child consumed with only the desire to please the Father.

Maybe God would like it if I would stop worrying about musical dynamics and smooth transitions, and simply come singing “I’m ‘onna get my Daddy…”

Broken Lives

Our broken lives were changed, when You broke the night with day. — God Be Praised, by Jon Egan

Check out the video here.

My wife and I are playing music at our church this morning, and God Be Praised is one of the songs on the list. It has a piano piece during the verses that takes up my attention so I can’t sing at the same time. But the first line of the third verse is the above quote, and it is my favorite line of all the songs we’re playing today.

Why? Because it captures so much in so few words.

What does it capture?

My state – On my own I am broken, I am shattered, I am in pieces.

His grace – Because of Him, as the pieces of the chains that bound me fall to the ground, the rubble of the life I tried to build begins to come together into the masterpiece He intended.

The victory of Christ – The night has been broken, the bondage shattered, the stronghold demolished. Light and life have come through Christ.

The finality of this change: Christ’s work is done. “It is finished.” Our lives are being changed, yes, but the primary catalyst for change – His victory – is already settled and established.

As the spiritual kingdom of this world shatters all around me, and as the world I tried to build comes apart, light shines in the darkness and unrelenting love creates a new life out of the ruins.

This is how His Word is coming to life in my heart today as we sing.

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