The Gospels are full of stories and moments that challenge us, as the reader, to take a long hard look at ourselves. The woman caught in adultery (John 8), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) all challenge the reader to reassess grace, holiness, and mercy in their own lives. One story that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves for it’s challenge to the reader is the story of Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness. It’s found in three of the four Gospels (John never really plays by anyone’s rules)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it for a long stretch. I think I got lost in the details of it; fasting for 40 days and a conversation with the devil can make the story feel incredibly unrelatable. I’ve done short fasts, but nothing close to a month. And while I’ve had some incredibly spiritual moments, both good and evil, I can’t say I’ve ever had a direct conversation with the devil.
But if you move past the sensational parts of the story, you can begin to see the true humanity of Christ. And that, after all, is the point of the story.
We’re too quick to dismiss this story out of hand. After all, how tempting can anything be for God? That question neglects the crucial component of Christ which is His humanity. He was one of us. (If you read nothing else, pause and let that thought bounce around in your head for a little bit – Christ was, and is, one of us). The temptations that Jesus faces are temptations that every one of us can relate too. Here’s how: Continue reading
Way back when, the apostle Paul wrote a couple of letters to the Thessalonians (Thessaloopians if you’re a Veggietales fan). Near the end of the first letter, Paul tells the reader to “pray without stopping” (1 Thess. 5:17). And without fail, every time this phrase gets brought up at a Bible study or Sunday school, everyone in the class turns to me and asks: “Preacher, how do we do this?”
The implication is that we as people don’t have time to pray throughout our entire day. We have families, careers, and numerous other things that all clamor for our attention, so we can’t just stay home and pray all day, every day. What about when we’re eating, or sleeping, or going to the bathroom?
So here are a couple of my thoughts on praying without stopping: Continue reading
When I was in college, I participated in the Army ROTC program. One of the fundamental skill sets we learned early on was Land Navigation, which consisted of map reading, orienteering, and plotting out a course over the terrain to find different points on the map. We would often use a variety of skills and tools to hike through the woods to these points. We’d use compasses, protractors, and different techniques to find our points.
When I think of trying to better understand or connect with God, I think of this hiking or map reading imagery. So here are four things that you can use to connect with God: Continue reading
A while ago, I learned about parkour (which is French for ‘Free Running’). Parkour is, essentially, combining running with gymnastics, with a little bit of climbing thrown in. The internet is full of videos of people who practice it. Parkour can look a little odd to an outsider to be sure, but it’s a really interesting skill set.
The most remarkable thing about it isn’t the general athleticism required (though that is certainly incredible). When someone watches a parkour maneuver for the first time, they usually want to ask how they ‘planned’ the trick. They’re surprised to find out that for a vast majority of the stunts and tricks, there wasn’t a plan. The athlete just made it up as they going. The most incredible thing about parkour is that is it essentially athletic improvisation.
Pastors and church members like plans. I know I do. Plans offer security and stability. Plans can also limit what churches or Christians can do in their spiritual lives. Here are a few things I think we can learn from Parkour for our spiritual lives. Continue reading
I’ve gotten the sense that over the last year or so, God has been up to something in my life. I just wasn’t able to put my finger on it until lately.
I saw a really interesting segment on a documentary a few months ago. In the segment, they were showing two villages that lived fairly close to each other in a desert. Both of these villages had been established around a single well that was drawing from an underground river. These two villages realized that if they would connect their wells, there would be more water flowing, and they could almost create a network of wells.
In order to do this, each village had to send people down their wells and carve out a tunnel following the river toward the other village. The person who was digging this mud, rock, and dirt out was up to their knees in muddy water, taking buckets full of rock back to the well to be taken away by others up top helping out. It’s messy, dangerous work, where there is a risk of cave in each day.
I think there are two periods of my spiritual life that God is using ministry to carve a deeper well between. It’s messy, confusing at times, and glorious at others. Continue reading