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

Advertisements

I have heard so much about you

I have this habit of talking about my wife a lot. I don’t really mean to do it, but it just happens. More than just talking about my wife I talk about my wife like people know who she is because I think they should. Sometimes I have said multiple things about her and then realize I have to clarify that Julie is my wife. It is usually just little things like Julie and I like to do ______, my wife was telling me about ______, or Julie is doing ______. I find that if I spend enough time talking to someone that by the time they meet my darling bride they say something along the lines of “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” My goal is for people to love my wife as much as I do. I want people to know what an amazing woman she is. I love when people met her and see what I see. It gives me such joy to see people see the wonder of my wife.

I want to do the same thing with Jesus. I want to talk about Jesus in such a way that people feel they just have to meet Him. That after spending time with me they think “wow this Jesus guy sounds amazing” because honestly, He is. I love Him so much and I want other people to love Him so much. The problem is that all too often I get in the way. I start to talk too much about the things of Jesus and not Him.

I can tell you all sorts of things about my wife. Fun facts and figures that would make you think me a crazy stalker. I know every mannerism about my wife. Usually, I know something about my wife before she does because I study her so much. If I told you these things you would know about her too, but it would not drive you to want to meet her. You would know a good deal about her, but they would not be things that make you meet her and say “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” Instead, you met her and say, “wow your husband knows you a lot.” By me telling you all the facts and stats about my wife you would learn a lot about me. You might even think I am awesome for knowing my wife so well. But that is not my goal. My goal is for you to meet her and thinks wow she is awesome.

The same goes for Jesus. I love to study the things about God (what we call theology). For me, it is so much fun. I enjoy talking about it and learning about it. I also think it is ridiculously important and the more I tell you about these things the more you will know things about Him too, but they will not drive you to want to know Him. The more I tell you about theology the more you might start to think “wow this guy really knows His Jesus.” But I don’t want you to know I know Jesus. I want you to know Him.

I want to talk about Him in such a way that you can’t wait to meet Him. That the more I talk about Him the more you think “I have to meet this Jesus.” That is all I want in life. I want others to know this same God who loves me and saved me from myself. I want people to know that Jesus loves them and wants to be part of their life. That Jesus looked down from heaven and said, “I want you.” That’s it, that is the good news right there. God sent His Son to come and be with you. That He says you are pretty messed up, but I want you and I am going to do something so big and so amazingly crazy to make this relationship work.

That is all I want right there. I just want to be so in love with Jesus that I talk about Him in such a way that people say to Him “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.”

Just a thought,

Mike

My Torn Joy

Joy

It was nine months ago that we go the call. It was not the first time we had received the call, but we thought it would be the last, at least for a while. “We have a little boy who needs a home are you available?” yes of course we are. We were prepared and had everything ready. A few hours later we met C. It was love at first sight. He was the most adorable thing we had ever seen. He looked at me shot a little sideways smile and my heart melted. I knew I was in for a world of hurt. Within two weeks we were ready to keep him. We knew instantly that if he needed a permanent home he had one with us. Our goal with fostering is to give 100% of ourselves to the kids because they need it. Granted we have not done this for that long but it was still our goal. So, he got it all. All the love he could handle and trust me he can handle a lot of love.

Everyone who has met this little man has fallen for him. He walks down the hallway at church and almost everyone stops to say hi and give a high five. He puts a smile on everyone’s face and brings joy to everyone he meets. At the grocery store, he is king of the isles. I’ll be honest because we have different skin tone we were so nervous we were going to get questions and stares, so we wanted to keep a lower profile. I would have hated to have to slap a fool. C did not care. He wanted everyone to see him and us. He would kiss and hug me in front of anyone. He just wants to see the whole world smile. And they do.

Today he comes back from a weekend visit and then he will be leaving in a little over a week. I am so glad that he has a family to love him and I am heartbroken that I will not see him anymore. I honestly feel like I am going to die. He brought so much joy into my life for these nine months and I will never forget that, but it does not do much to soften the pain. I wanted to give 100% of myself to him and I did. Now part of me is leaving with him. It was hard when the last placement ended but for different reasons. This is torture. The waiting for him to go. The knowing the end is near and never showing him. Knowing each kiss goodnight is one less I get but making him feel like each one is forever. I have to be honest this hurts more than I ever knew possible. But again, he gave me joy and so much more.

Through C God has shown me more of His love than I ever understood before. Through C God has shown me His heart for me. Even when he is a little punk I love him. Even when he tests I love him. Even when he is just a two-year-old I love him. Nothing will change that. God has shown how He feels that infinitely more towards me. My joy is torn just like this picture C made and then broke. It serves as a reminder of what it means to love. Love means putting yourselves out there being willing to be hurt because it is worth it.

Kids are worth it. People are worth it. People need love and yes, they can hurt you, but they are worth the risk. You cannot reach everyone. Sometimes no matter how hard you try there is just no getting to them, but we cannot let that stop us from loving someone else. We are called to walk like Christ and Christ loved Judas knowing he would betray Him. Jesus loved enough to be hurt and so can we by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I know I am going to be a mess when C leaves but that is because I love him and I am OK with that. Foster care is hard and sometimes it just sucks but they are worth it. Loving people is hard and sometimes you don’t want to do it, but people are worth it. If we just try and protect ourselves from getting hurt we may succeed but at what cost?

Just a thought,

Mike

Take my will

In John 16:24 Jesus says that we should ask in His name so that we may receive, and our joy will be complete. Today it hit me that what I need to be asking for is for my will to be conformed to God’s will. I  want my will to line up with His. I want my purpose to be His purpose. I want to be conformed to the image of the Son. I want my pleasures to be His pleasures, my choices to be His choices. I desire to be more like Him because I am so thankful for what He has done and not done in my life. The more I seek Him the more I want Him. The more I know Him the more I want to know Him. The more I see God the more I cry out like Isaiah.

Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said:

Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?

I said:

Here I am. Send me.

Foster Care and Love

I don’t usually get personal but today I will. On Friday, our two foster boys left and I felt a sadness I did not know I could feel. It is a hard thing doing foster care because going into it you know they will leave, and you know you will be broken hearted. You know this but you still do it. I think one of the things that makes it that much harder is that they take all their stuff with them. You have little things that get left behind but when you are used to having a house full of toys and fire trucks a block here and a car there does not really cut it.

I can say that now more than before I understand God’s love for me. To do Foster Care right you need to open yourself up completely. Don’t get me wrong I think I did more wrong than right but I think I opened up fully. Back to the point though, you need to completely love these kids because while you know they are leaving they need security and love. They need to know that their past does not define them and that their hurt can be healed. They need to be washed in love every day and that requires you to be only concerned with their well-being. That is hard.

It is hard because you know their love for you is not as deep as it is for their bio parents. Regardless of their former home life and how messed up it might be that was home and that was normal. You and your love are abnormal. The point is you need to be all in regardless of whether or not they are. You need to love them as if they were yours not because the feelings or actions may be reciprocated but because that is what love does.

We loved those boys fully. I made mistakes but I loved fully. Now I hurt fully. I hurt when I think about them, I hurt when I see a toy or their little Nashville refrigerator magnets, and I hurt fully when I know I will not see them after work. But I also smile. I smile because I know they are happy, healthy, and they know they were loved. I smile because I got hugs I would have never gotten, I smile because I got to hear I love you, and I smile because the little one used the potty. I smile because I was able to love.

We have to love people and we have to be willing to be hurt. We cannot say no because it is hard but I will because it is worth it. Whether it is a hard child, a hard adult, or whatever we must love because loving people is worth it.

I think about how God loves us and how the Bible says “while we still sinners Christ died for us.” God gave fully because that is what loves does. Even now there are those who refuse Him and want nothing to do with Him. Yet He still loves them and He is still calling them.

There is a whole world out there waiting to see what the church will do. They are waiting to see if we will walk like Christ. They are waiting to see if we will come to them and love. They are waiting. Are we willing to walk in and out of love?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Eph 2:4-5

Just a thought,

Mike

Born to grow

It should be no secret to anyone who reads my little thoughts that the Gospel of John is my favorite book. It should be clear that when I say it is my favorite book I don’t just mean my favorite biblical book either. No, it is my favorite book of all time. Moreover, my favorite part is the prologue section (verses 1-18). There is so much depth, beauty, and theological truth in that one section that it captivates me every time I read it. I will be honest, and I am sure this does not happen to you, but sometimes I have a tendency to read my Bible and skip over things I am familiar with and while this does happen on occasion with John’s prologue I always go back and re-read it carefully because it draws me in.

As I have mentioned elsewhere the main point of this section is verse 12 because it sits right in the middle of the chiastic pattern. The beauty of it is highlighted by John 20:31 where John says that everything that has been written was written so that you might believe Jesus is the Christ and that in believing you might have life. The beauty is that Jesus just wants you to live and to be a child of God.

But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 (NKJV)

I have been following Christ for a long time now and I am still captivated by this simple idea that God loves me and wants to call me son. He does not have to but He wants to. He does not require me to do something to earn that sonship, He does not force it upon me, and He does not threaten to take it away. He just loves with a passion for me. I cannot escape that simple yet profound truth.

God’s great and wonderful love compels me to be different. Yes, Christ places commands upon me but His love compels me to comply. I do not do things differently because I must but because I desire to please the one I love. I desire to be better because He believes in me. I desire to grow, to live sacrificially, and to mature because the one who loves me sees me that way. The funny thing is that the more I grow and mature the more I realize I am not as good as I previously thought. The more I control my temper the more I realize I have much work to do. The more I give the more I realize I am not as giving as I desire to be. The more I love others the more I realize I do not express it enough. The more I become like Christ the more I realize I am still too Mike.

I catch glimpses of who I am to be but the picture is not clear. I daily confirm what Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12 that I see in dimly in a mirror. My prayer is that of the hymn Come, Jesus, Reign in Me “All foes cast out, let this poor heart Be filled with love divine; Securely fixed, no more to part. From this poor heart of mine.” And to be clear it is not a pressure or a feeling like I am not good enough but a desire to be more like Him who loves me. I desire to be that man. I desire to be that son.

The love of God should change you and if it does not you should question whether or not you understand that love. It would be like saying that you do not desire to be different for your spouse. Not that you have to change for them to want you or love you but because you are in a relationship with them you naturally want to be a better husband or wife. The love that exists between the two of you creates an environment where you can grow. If you do not think you have growing to do then I would suggest there is much growing to do. The relationship you have with God our Father does not only create the environment to allow for change but because the Holy Spirit indwells believers you also have the power to change. God gives us the desire, the environment, and the ability to change. All we need to do is walk it out in humble obedience. Trust me on this, the walk is worth it.

For perfect love I long have groaned,
I would be wholly Thine;
Yes, I would have the Lord enthroned
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, reign in me,
My heart Thy throne shall be;
Oh, tarry in Thy throne,
’Tis Thine, and Thine alone.

All foes cast out, let this poor heart
Be filled with love divine;
Securely fixed, no more to part
From this poor heart of mine.

Let perfect love my portion be,
To Thee my all resign;
O Holy One, come dwell in me,
And rule this heart of mine.

No earthly language can express
The love in Christ I find
’Tis boundless and it’s measureless,
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, Reign in Me

H.R. Jeffery, 1885

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Acts 19 – Four Responses to the Gospel

In Acts chapter 19 we are given four responses to the Gospel message. It is sort of a unique chapter in that regard because it shows how different people or people groups can react to the message of the God’s love and grace in one short space.

The first group that is presented with the Gospel is a group of John’s former disciples. These were ones who knew of the message of repentance that was taught by John the Baptist and they had participated in John’s baptism. They had some knowledge of Jesus and desired to do the will of God but they were missing some key parts of the message. When Paul heard this, he explained to them what they were missing and baptized them into Christ and they received the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to me that they worked with what they knew and were humble enough to admit they did not know what they did not know. I think we can all agree that we only know so much after all 1 Cor 13:9 says we know in part so we should be humble enough to admit that. The question is not do we know in part but what do we do with that fact. We should not believe every spirit but we should be willing to listen to those who are experienced in the faith and learn because there is much to learn. More importantly, we should learn that when God brings new knowledge to us we need to walk in that knowledge. We are called to learn and grow in Christ and part of the growing is walking out the new things God brings to us.

The second group was the members of the synagogue. Paul went and preached to them for three months and their response was to harden their hearts and become angry. They had no desire to turn from what they knew and instead spoke evil of the Way (Christianity).

There are some people who no matter what will not want to hear that God loves them. They have their own ideas and preconceived notions of who God is and anything outside of that is wrong. Maybe they have been hurt by the church or maybe they are just bitter but for whatever reason, they do not want to hear the Gospel. Like Paul, I would suggest you tell them anyway because some water and some reap but God gives the increase. Our job is not to decide who gets to the hear Gods message of love and reconciliation but to tell everyone. We are not in a position to decide but to deliver.

The third group is interesting because they knew the power of the Gospel and the power of Jesus but it had no place in their hearts. There was a group of men trying to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name and the demon essentially jumped them. This demon said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I acknowledge but who are you?” Jesus was known by the demon. Paul was known to belong to Jesus but these men were unknown because they were just using the name.

For the Gospel to have any power in your life, it has to be something that is in you not just known by you. I can know that cold medicine will help my cold but if I don’t get it in me then nothing changes. You can know all about God but if the love of the Father is not in you then you have nothing. James says, you believe in God good, even the demons believe that and shudder. It is not enough to know the stories or to know about God, you need to know Him and be known by Him. You can say God all day long but the question is do you respond when He says your name?

The last group just got mad because it messed with their livelihood. These men where makers of idols and for someone to walk around talking about a God who exists without human hands or intervention was not good for them. The message of the Gospel is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die on a cross taking our sin and shame and then rose again three days later claiming victory over sin and the grave. This message gives you no wiggle room to please God on your own and idol worship is all about pleasing God and yourself on your own.

To move it to today you could say these men were like pimps, hustlers, and charlatans. They made their living off people trying to please themselves through self-fulfilled worship. You need this to make you happy because you are the one who needs to feel that connection. Take this drug to feel good. Take this stuff to feel better. Take this person to feel powerful. Take this to please yourself. Listen to my great wisdom to be better. Anytime you come across someone peddling that message you are going to run a high risk of making them mad telling them that you cannot please God and you cannot find satisfaction in your efforts to feel better.

Again, I would reiterate that our job is not to judge who is worthy of the message but to deliver it and to pray for all those we share it with. I would also suggest that sharing the good news is not always about giving a full presentation of the Gospel message and trying to get someone to “say the prayer.” Sometimes if not most times it is just about being real and being true. It is about letting people know that God loves them and you love them. It is about praying for people and letting them know you will pray for them. We need to be real with people and in turn, I think we will find they will be real with you.

Just a thought,

Mike