Expert Status…

I have heard that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert. That is a lot of hours. To put it into perspective if you wanted to become an expert at guitar or piano and played for 4 hours every day it would take 2,500 days to be an expert. That is almost 7 years to reach expert status. That is no breaks, no sick days, and no vacations. 4 hours every day for almost 7 years. That also does not take into account everything you need to learn to practice the new stuff. Things like reading up on new chords, scales, or whatever. Obviously, I am not an expert (I cannot even play). But I think we get the picture. Expert status takes a drive, dedication, determination, and time. It does not happen overnight. But why am I talking about becoming an expert at playing an instrument? I am not, I just wanted to put the idea in perspective.

I do want to talk about becoming expert Christians. More specifically what it means for you to be an expert in your walk with Christ. I say your walk because each one of us should be striving for expert status in our walk with Christ. We should be the foremost leading expert (besides God Himself) on all things pertaining to our walk with Christ. If we use the 10,000-hour rule as a guide we can add in the things we are actually doing to practice our walk and see when we can expect to reach expert status.

My initial thought was “I always have the Holy Spirit in me so subtract sleep and divide.” WOW, that was simple – 588 days or 1.6 years. But then I found a problem. I don’t remember being an expert in my walk with Christ all those years ago. In fact, I am still learning things.

The Bible is not silent on this 2 Corinthians 8:7, for example, says that we should “excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge.” So it seems clear that we cannot become an expert just by existing as Christians. That would be nice but it does not seem to actually work. Well, maybe it makes a good hypocrite but that’s another story…

Instead, I want to offer three categories that I think we need to practice to help reach expert status. Also, I am going to keep the bad/good news for the end.

First up is obedience because I think a lot of the things we are supposed to practice fall into the obedience category. Giving, for example, is about obedience. Serving is another item that deals with obedience. Come to think of it the Bible is so insistent on obedience that it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. It also Jesus was obedient to the point of death. Obedience is like John says “walking as He (Jesus) walked.” That means obedience is pretty high up on the list of things to practice. So how much obedience do we need to do to reach our 10,000 hours? My guess is roughly 10,000 hours. Yeah, I don’t think we can split this one up. Sorry, it is a one for one ratio on obedience. So let’s make the math simple and say that overall each obedient act counts as one hour because some are longer and some much shorter. We only need 10,000 acts of obedience. That’s really not too bad. If we do one obedient act a day we can become experts in 27 years. But there is a problem.

The problem is it is not just about obedience. There are two other major categories and the next one is discipleship. I thought about maybe putting this one with obedience but Jesus was pretty insistent on this one thing before He ascended back to heaven so I think it should get its own practice hours. Mind you this is not evangelism. You cannot just say well I told 10,000 people so I met my hours. Sorry, wrong answer. Discipleship is taking time to invest in the spiritual formation and maturity of other believers. Discipleship is about being involved in other peoples lives and allowing them to be involved in yours. It is a process and as such, it takes time to complete these hours. So the question – what’s the ratio. Come on Mike how many hours of discipleship do I need to complete to reach expert status? Well, let’s keep this train rolling and say it’s one-to-one. So 10,000 hours or one hour a day or 27 years of discipling others and you have your hours. Again that is no breaks, vacations, or time off. But still, it’s a number.

Lastly, we come to prayer. Prayer is time between you and God. Paul says we should be praying always so there is a good reason to pray. The Bible is full of commands to pray, examples about prayer, stories of God hearing prayers. Jesus even taught the 12 to pray. I would suggest that not only is prayer a big deal it is a progressive act. The more we pray the more we need to pray. The more focused and disciplined our prayers become the more focus and discipline they need to be for us. One of my favorite passages on prayer is when Jesus says that we should keep asking, keep knocking, and keep seeking. I find that very confusing and very exciting. We have to continue to pray. In the beginning, only praying I want prayers is OK. Nothing wrong with that. It is like learning to walk and holding onto the couch or learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It is perfectly OK. But at some point, our prayers need to shift into something deeper. Something more intimate. Our prayer life reflects our spiritual maturity. So can you guess what the ratio is? Go ahead guess… That’s right it’s one-to-one. You might be thinking that this is an easy one right but the problem is the more you pray the more God delights in you and the more He refines you. The more you pray and grow in prayer the deeper your intimacy with Him becomes. The number might as well be 6 billon because the more you pray the more you become dependent on God. Besides, do you feel you have given 10,000 hours of prayer?

In the end, at best we can become experts at what it means for us to be a Christian in 27 years if we practice every single day. No breaks, no vacations, no sick days. This is nearly impossible. Nearly. The joyful thing is that the journey is part of the process. Learning what it means to be obedient, helping others in their walk with Christ, praying and leaning into the Father is the Christian life. That is what it is about. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that was written towards the end of his life that he had not reached the goal of being fully mature or an expert but that he is pushing forward towards the goal. We keep moving forward and driving towards the end goal of maturity in Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Imagine or What If

I must admit and I know this puts me in the minority but I do not like the song Imagine by John Lennon. Maybe I am just more of a Mccartney guy… What I do like though is the thought of imagining. Take 1 Peter 5:5 for example. In Peter’s letter, according to translations that use the Textus Receptus, he says that we should all submit to one another. Now you may dismiss this if you prefer translations that use the Majority Text but you would also have to throw out Luke 22:26 & 9:48, Mark 9:35 & 10:43, and possibly Galatians 3:28 and Romans 10:12 as well as all the passages that talk about loving and serving one another in Christ.

Anyway, on to the point… What if we loved and submitted to one another and gave preference to each other? What if we looked out for the best interest of others before ourselves? What if we thought, what does my brother or sister in Christ need? What if instead of thinking “how can I get” we thought “how can I give?” What if we actively sought out ways to bless people? What if we served the lost and hurting without expecting something, anything, in return? What if we trusted that some plant, some water, and God gives the increase? What if?

This is not meant to point fingers because honestly, we are all guilty at different times of not thinking biblically. I myself find it hard sometimes because I am tired and just want to worry about myself. I think that is why Paul said: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It is not easy to think about and actually serve others but it is necessary.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Just a thought,

Mike

Ravens, Doves, and Godly Counsel

In Genesis, we read that after the rain stopped and the flood waters receded Noah let out a raven and then a dove to see if the ground was dry. If you read carefully you notice that the raven takes off and just flies back and forth while the dove when released flies out and then returns.

This might not seem like much but if you think about this it makes sense. A raven will eat just about anything and it can fly longer than a dove. A raven is not a delicate bird and according to Leviticus 15, it is considered unclean. The dove, on the other hand, is used for sacrifice in burnt offerings. It has a better purpose to it so it needs to be treated with more care.

There are times when we need wisdom from God and God expects us to seek Him for wisdom (James 1:5). In those times, it is easy to just go around asking everyone for their opinion and thought but the Bible commands us to be wise and discerning. We should ask not only God for wisdom but also seek counsel from wise people because it leads to blessing (Prov 1:5; 11:14, etc.) but we must be wise in who we seek counsel from and how we go about it. It is not enough to just walk up to someone on the street and ask their advice, instead, we need to wise like Noah and weigh our options.

Sometimes when I am trying to work through a problem I talk about to a friend. Someone who has no stake in the game. I can test out my idea and see if it makes sense. Then depending on how I feel after that conversation I can take it to the next level and talk to someone who is better versed in the thing I am working through. I do this because I have flushed out my initial thoughts and reformed my ideas. I have thought them through and got the raven parts out of the way. I am better equipped to have a more detailed discussion and get to wise counsel. It is not that my friend cannot give wise counsel. On the contrary, they helped me flush it out. This is one of the reasons the Bible says to seek multiple counselors. If I went straight to the top then I would be presenting ravens and not doves.

The whole point is this; be wise in your thinking and how you go about seeking help. Seek God for wisdom but also seek wise godly counsel.

Just a thought,

Mike

All Are Needed

I have been thinking quite a bit about James 2:1-4 and while James mentions money in the example I think a common principle is there. I take two things from this passage first, we should not favor one group over another. Not the young or the old, not the rich or the poor, and not the “elite” or “the common.” Each “type” of person has value they can and do bring into worship and each one needs to be appreciated for that. In general, youth brings creativity which is great but with age comes temperance which is often needed with creativity. Rich bring money and the poor bring perseverance (again in general). All are valuable and all are needed.

Second I see that James says that both should be present. James seems to be pointing out that both are in the mix at this congregation and that tells me that we should seek to embrace that dynamic. We should have old and young, rich and poor, experienced and inexperienced. If our gathering is missing any of these then we are missing something

My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:1-4

Just a thought,

Mike

Ring Ring, Hello

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We have to remember when we read the story of Jonah that Jonah knew God. He was a prophet and if we read through the Bible we see he first appears in 2 Kings 14:25 which means he had been a prophet for some time before he was sent to Nineveh. Jonah knew God and he knew God was merciful and compassionate. Jonah ran from God not because he was afraid of the Ninevites, but because he knew God would forgive them.

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) because of his hatred for the Assyrians. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel who were a) not to be messed with and b) by all accounts had no interest in turning to God. They were perfectly happy in their wickedness. Jonah as far as he could tell had no business going to preach repentance to a people who would not want to hear and that he did not even like. As is often the case God, however, had other plans.

When we read the Bible we are constantly confronted with the fact that God has plans that differ from ours. In Isaiah God says my ways are not your ways, in Psalms, it says God’s plans stand forever, and in Ephesians, it says He works all things out in agreement with His own will. Even we look at Jesus coming we see that it did not transpire the way the people expected and because it did not come as they expected they could not accept it. Over and over again God shows He has His own plans.

Jonah knew this about God and did not want to go to Nineveh because even though God did not say He would forgive them Jonah knew it was in His nature to show compassion. Jonah knew God well enough to know that about Him and sure enough the people repented and God showed compassion. God still shows compassion too. He has shown it to me and to you even if you do not know Him. We live because God shows compassion. There’s a term called grace that we love and throw around in the church and it basically means unmerited favor or God giving you good when you don’t deserve it.

God’s grace is huge and I think we can overlook it sometimes. Grace means God doesn’t strike you down for the sins you commit or even will commit. Think about this; God knew before you were born you would sin against Him and He still chooses to have you come into being. He knew you would sin against Him and not choose Him and He still loves you. He knows there are people who will never turn to Him but He still calls them. That is a love that is beyond understanding. God might be calling you right now. He might be telling you to call someone else. He might be telling you to go and do something you think is beyond you. He does this all from a place of being merciful, compassionate, and full of grace.

If God is calling, no matter what that call looks like He is calling because He loves you. He is calling because He has plans and they involve you. Maybe you need to go to a far away land and preach the Gospel, maybe you need to go next door and tell the neighbor, or maybe you just need to smile at the cashier. Whatever the case, whatever the call you should answer it.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Modalism? No thank you

I was listening to someone this week and he was talking about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he was arguing for a form of modalism that says that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person. Modalism if you do not know is the belief that God is one but reveals Himself in three modes or forms (Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit). He was arguing from a few texts in the New Testament and from the Shepherd of Hermas in an attempt to show that the early church including the Apostles ascribed to this belief system. I must say that his argument was pretty good. Well, that is until you actually read the Bible.

One place he argued from was Luke 1:25 where the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive the holy one. His point was that it was the Holy Spirit who entered Mary and became the Son of God. He was saying that the Son of God did not exist before the Holy Spirit became the Son. You can pick a few text and try to force this idea but when examined throughout Scripture it does not hold up.

One major problem with modalism is that the Bible does not support it. Conversely, it is my firm belief that the Bible teaches the Trinity. I have argued elsewhere for Jesus’ divinity and the idea of the Trinity but I thought I would offer up just a few short arguments from the Gospel of John as well.

First is from John 14:16-18 where Jesus famously promises the Holy Spirit. More importantly, we can see from this text that Jesus promises that He (Jesus) will ask the Father and He (the Father) will send the Counselor (Holy Spirit). We have the whole Trinity presented here. If Jesus and Holy Spirit are the same person (read homoousion), then I find this statement beyond confusing and just downright weird. Jesus will return to the Father and then ask the Father if He can go back in another form?

But still, maybe I am just reading it wrong however John 14:26 only serves to confuse me more. Jesus here continuing His dialog with the disciples says that the Father will send Him (Holy Spirt) in My name (Jesus) – [He] will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. It would seem here that Jesus seems to think that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same person but three.

Again, maybe I am missing something. Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will come from the Father at Jesus’ request. In 16:7-10 Jesus says more about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how He (Jesus) will return to the Father. It would seem then that Jesus was a pretty strong believer in the Trinity and an opponent of modalism.

There are things in the Bible that are confusing there is no doubt about that. The Trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit are at the top of the list of things that are confusing because the concept of an eternal divine being that is three in one is beyond what we can, at least currently, grasp but that does not change the fact that what is being taught is just that.

Paul says that we should be careful not to taken captive by philosophy or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). We must be diligent that when we hear things that sound off or too fanciful that we consider them and search the Scriptures to see what is actually said. Even everything I just said I expect you to look it up that is why I provide links to verses. I expect you to look them up and read the verses before and after what I say. We must be faithful to search and read the Word of God learning to rightfully divide it. Also, if someone comes at you presenting a form of modalism maybe you are little more prepared now.

Just a thought,

Mike

Supposed To

Have you ever thought that you were made for more? This feeling that where you are now is not your destination but a stepping stone or that you are just in a waiting period. Not an I want more feeling but an I am supposed to do/be more knowing that you just cannot shake. I separate these two things because “I want more” can change depending on feelings and distractions but a “supposed to” hardly changes. The difference is between feeling and knowing. If you just have the want more my advice would be to figure out what the supposed to is and then focus on that. Wants are a good place to start but they are not strong enough to drive you. They are not concrete enough to strengthen you. You can get distracted and carried away by something else and that is ok if you are still trying to figure it out but a supposed to that’s a different story. A want to makes you say I’ll try while a supposed to makes you I’m all in.

I think it is clear I want to take a minute and talk about the supposed to. A supposed to is usually birthed out of a desire (I want), but it has been refined. It has been honed and shaped. It has been tested and its weight is known. It has gone through the fire so to speak and has come out harder. The very nature of a supposed to is to be hard. It is hard to make, hard to have, and hard to break. They are too hard to make because you cannot just wake up with it. You start with a desire and then test it out a little. You see if it can hold up. It is hard to have because it will push you. It does not let you settle for less. It needs to be hard to break because people and the world will try to break it.

Joseph and David are good examples of having a supposed to. The story of Joseph, in particular, is good to look at because his started with a clear want to and was tested over and over. David is also good to look at because he was tested by those closest to him.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. I have four younger brothers and I contemplated selling them into slavery many times but I never actually went through with it. His brothers, on the other hand, had little issue with the idea. Joseph was the family favorite and because of his dreams and big mouth he went to Egypt. Joseph was good at everything he did. God’s favor was always on Joseph you could say he had the Midas touch. Every position he was put in he excelled at. Yard work? Check. Financial management? Check. Cooking? Check. Leadership? Check. It did not matter what he was doing he did it well. When he was thrown into prison he excelled there too. He was literally running the place in no time. Joseph was great at all of these things but these were not the things he was supposed to do. There is a very important lesson here and I am afraid that it is only half given a lot of times.

The first part is that you need to do well in whatever position you find yourself in. If you are a clerk be a great clerk, if you are a janitor be a great janitor, if you are a Sunday school teacher be a great Sunday school teacher. Whatever position you find yourself in do it to the best of your ability even if it is not where you are supposed to be. This is the part of the lesson I think we all know. We have heard it a thousand times but there is more and it is not hidden. It is right there in Genesis 40:14 and it where Joseph says to the cupbearer “but when all goes well for you, remember that I was with you.” Joseph was doing the things he had to do but he never forgot what he was supposed to do. He excelled where he was at and looked for opportunities to get to get to his supposed to. If your supposed to is not hard then you will settle and if you settle then you lose it. Joseph was not supposed to be in prison he was supposed to do great things. On to David.

David was a wonderful shepherd. He protected his flock by fighting a bear and a lion. That takes guts. He was a talented musician and I would imagine he was pretty good armor bearer (even though I am not sure what that means). He was a great poet and he was a wonderful friend. David was good at all of these things but they were not his supposed to. David was anointed by Samuel to be king and his destiny was not to be a shepherd. His first big test to his supposed to or you can think of it as a “meant for” was not against Goliath but against his brother and Saul. If your supposed to is not hard then you will let others determine your position and worth. His brother questioned his motives and suggested he was irresponsible (1 Sam 17:28). Saul tried to make him more like him (1 Sm 17:38). Saul is a great example of what will often happen to you when you try to live out your supposed to. People will kind of get on board with you and help you but first, you need to conform to their idea of how to execute the plan. If your supposed to is not resolved (hard) then you will break and end up coming up short. David put the armor on and then realized that he could not do the job dressed up like someone else. He needed to be who he was and do it the way God had taught him.

In both Joseph and David, we can see examples of how a supposed to is made and tested. These things are great to look at but unless you apply them to your own life then nothing will change for you. Unless we can take this and ask ourselves if we have our supposed to then they are just nice stories. If you already have your supposed to then take this as encouragement to keep going. If you know your supposed to and are living it then find someone who does not have theirs or someone who is working towards theirs and be a blessing.

Don’t settle for less than you were made for. Jesus did not come to save you and leave you stuck. He has great and wonderful plans for you. Jesus says in John 15 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” God wants you to bear much fruit as be a disciple of Jesus. That does not mean wealth or health but an abundant and full life. Why settle for less if God wants more for you?

Just a thought,
Mike