A Spectacular Calling for 2016

An Invitation to Commune with the Trinity

Are you one of the thousands who take this week to review their past year and strategize for the next year? One Bible verse got my attention in 2015 and still holds me captive into 2016. As I share this small but significant piece of my journey with you, I invite you to consider what God may be saying to you in this verse for this coming year.

You are called to a relationship with God that goes deeper than anything you can imagine. And the great part is that it is God who makes it possible. All you have to do is join in. The verse is 1 Corinthians 1.9. It reads:

God is faithful, who has called you into the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In one short sentence, you are given the source and object of your Christian faith and living. And, a spectacular calling!

A Closer Look

“God is faithful” – God is a Mystery. However, you know He is faithful from scripture and from experience. He will do what He says He will do. So, if He is faithful in granting you communion with Himself, it will happen. However, He does not force it on you. You must cooperate.

“called” – In the context of God’s faithfulness, you are in a position to commune with the Trinity.

“communion” – This is the familiar word, koinonia. It can also be translated “fellowship” and “participation.” Have you thought about the reality that each member of the Trinity perfectly communes with each another? They are always in communion with one another. They fully participate in one another. You experience communion as you commune with those in perfect communion – the Father, Son, and Spirit.

“of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ” – Note carefully that your calling is not so much to commune WITH His Son as it is to commune in the communion His Son has and enjoys. In other words, you can commune with those with whom Jesus communes – the Father and the Spirit. They are already in communion with one another. You have the grand privilege of joining them as you commune with Jesus Christ.

A New Year’s Resolution?

Can you make that a New Year’s resolution? “I devote 2016 to learning to commune in the communion Jesus has and enjoys.” Or, “I seek to commune with God in everyday life, 24/7.” That’s the invitation presented to you by God’s faithfulness.

Join me in dedicating 2016 to the pursuit of a life of everyday communion with God.

Share below if this “calling” resonates with you. How might you pursue this calling? What issues must you face to begin living out this calling? 

Dr. K 

Learning An Authentic Lesson From “Jingle Bells”

"Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh" - Really?

I have ruined Jingle Bells forever. I’ve got this crazy idea that the words sung should mean something to the singer. It would be nice if the words reflected the singer’s own experience. Can the singer authentically say, “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh?” My feelings are not unique to this song. I get perturbed when children, mimicking adults, sing love songs. “I can’t live without you” just rings hollow when sung by a 10-year-old. So, when someone sings “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh” when they’ve never actually ridden in a one horse open sleigh…in snow-covered fields…with ringing bobtail bells…laughing and singing, I wonder how authentic they are being. See, I’ve ruined it. (I know the song is a generic tale of wintertime frolic, but play along with my over-analytical ways. OK?)

According to Wikopedia, “Jingle Bells” is one of the best-known and commonly sung American wintertime songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont(1822–1893) and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” in the autumn of 1857. Even though it is now associated with the Christmas and holiday season, it was actually originally written for American Thanksgiving. This is fun information. But, the point of this post is authenticity in communication.

Authenticity

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “authentic” as real or genuine; not copied or false; true and accurate; made to be or look just like the original. Wow! There are so many applications to living and to Christian living.

Authenticity is hard to come by. We know it when we see it. But we’re so surrounded by inauthentic people and performances that we struggle to discern the real among the fake. We really want the authentic. People who simply quote Bible verses on Facebook don’t understand this. Do you actually live what you’re quoting? Does it matter to you? I know we’re all on a journey and can’t live Bible truth fully. So then, perhaps being silent is better than being inauthentic.

How about you? Do you long for authenticity? Do you long to be authentic? Is it a driving force in your life?

How?

  • Acknowledge how inauthentic you are.
    • Repent of being a performer.
    • Release your need to “look good.”
    • Recognize your shortcomings.
    • Realize Christian authenticity only comes by participating in the life of Christ.
  • Be silent before God and His word. Not everything you receive from God is to be passed on to others. It most often is only a message for you.
  • Begin living it before talking it. Allow the truth to be a part of your life first. Authenticity demands that you back up your speech with a credible life.

Let’s strive to be authentic in all things.

Share below your struggles with being authentic.

Merry Christmas and “jingle all the way!”

Dr. K

How “God With You” Provides A Grand Opportunity For “You With God”

Immanuel in Every Day Life

“God with you” provides the distiguished opportunity for “you with God.”

In the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream. The details of Jesus’ birth are laid before Joseph. The son, born of the virgin Mary is to be named Jesus (“God saves”). Additionally, he is identified as Immanuel, “God with us.” What does it mean that Jesus is God with us?

God

Jesus is God. He is, in his very essence, one with the Father and the Spirit. He is not divided from the Trinity but one with the Trinity. He is “true God from true God” as echoed in the Nicene creed. He is God in particular not in general. “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1.19).

With

The New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed.) gives 10 descriptions to the preposition “with.”

  1. accompanied by (another person or thing) sandwich with chips; a. in the same direction as: swim with current; b. along with: wisdom comes with age
  2. possessing something as a feature: shirt with collar
  3. indicating the instrument used to perform an action: cut with knife
  4. in opposition to: fighting with one another
  5. indicating the manner or attitude of the person doing something: with reluctance
  6.  indicating responsibility: leave it with me
  7. in relation to: father is pleased with me
  8. employed by: she’s with IBM
  9. affected by: walking with fear
  10. indicating separation or removal from something: to part with a dear possession

Us

Us = human beings. Us in our world. Us in our daily lives. Us in our humanity. Us in our brokenness and sin. Us in our celebrations and catastrophes. Us in our joys and sadness. Us in our relationships and solitude. Us in our conversations and silence. Us in birth and death.

God is with you. He came to you that you might be with Him. That isn’t just true for those in the first century. It is true for you, now. You get to participate in what He is providing; to participate in the reality of God being with you.

Applying the descriptions of “with” to “God with us:”

  • Jesus is accompanying you.
  • Jesus is along with you – in the same direction.
  • Jesus is possessing what you possess.
  • Jesus is the means or instrument of your actions.
  • Jesus is in opposition to you.
  • Jesus is filling you.
  • Jesus is taking on your responsibilities.
  • Jesus is relating to you.
  • Jesus is at your service.
  • Jesus is affected by you.

God is with you now in Jesus Christ. The Triune God – Father, Son, Spirit – are with you in Jesus Christ.

A Challenging Question

The question then becomes: Are you with Him? Look at the list above and insert yourself first and insert Jesus for “you/your” and see how you come out.

Don’t let “God with us” remain a cliche, theory, or only a doctrinal belief. Seek to live it in your every day life as you participate with the God who is with you.

Share below your struggles and/or delights of this kind of living.

Merry Christmas!

Dr. K

How Learning to Resist Nothing Makes You a Better Christian

Grappling with Jesus' Unconventional Wisdom: "Do Not Resist Evil"

This is one of my favorite scenes from Le Miserable. Bishop Myriel takes in the hungry, despised, and desperate ex-con Jean Valjean, showing him love and respect. Valjean responds with treachery, stealing a few items of value. When Valjean is caught by the authorities and brought before Bishop Myriel for accusation, the Bishop validates Valjean’s story (that the items were a gift) and chides him for neglecting to take a pair of silver candlesticks as well. He then sends Valjean on his way with the candlesticks and these parting words,

But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!

Among other things, Bishop Myriel’s actions illustrate Jesus’ teaching to not resist evil. Have you ever heard these words from Jesus?

Hidden in the teachings of Jesus on the Mount of Olives are these preposterous words, “Do not resist evil” (Matthew 5.39) Preposterous indeed! It gets even worse when he teaches, “Love your enemies.” Now he’s gone too far. Actually, he goes further…

When you’re slapped on one side of your face, let yourself be slapped on the other side.

When you’re legally obligated to give your hat, give your jacket as well.

When forced to go one mile, go two.

Give to the beggar and loan to the borrower.

When someone steals your silver, make sure they take your expensive candlesticks as well.

(from Bishop Myriel)

Qualifiers

Let’s be wise. Jesus is not setting policy for governments or institutions. His focus is on individuals living out the life of Jesus as He instructs.

And, learn to resist one thing – Satan himself (James 4.7, 1 Peter 5.9). Jesus teaches how to do this by his own example. But, that’s for another post.

Getting At the Meaning

Let’s not explain away Jesus’ teaching. In surrendering completely to God and in giving thanks for all things, such an action makes perfect sense.

Dr. Meletios Webber, theologian, psychologist, monk, pastor and teacher writes about Jesus’ teaching:

Jesus does not intend that we should give in to the evil impulses inside of us, but that we should surrender to forces outside of ourselves without labeling them, without first deciding what is “good” and what is “evil.” This we can do only by submitting to what looks like evil, since we naturally tend not to resist the good. “Love your enemies” actually means “have no enemies.” “Do not resist evil” means “learn to resist nothing.”

Examples

  • When a homeless man asks you for money, give him something as you are able.
  • When it rains, accept it as God’s blessings on you and others.
  • When the traffic is moving slowly, receive it as from God who teaches you patience and love.
  • When a friend criticizes you, just listen without defense and say “Thank you.”
  • When someone compliments you, receive it graciously and say “Thank you.”
  • When someone writes something on Facebook that agitates you, see them as bearing the image of God and say, “Thank you.”
  • When you see others relating poorly with one another, reflect on your own “poor” relationship with God instead of criticizing them.

My last post on saying “Thank you” for all things led me to this “resist nothing” teaching. The two seem to go hand in hand since they share the same challenge of not determining what is good and what is bad, what is worthy of thanks and what is not worthy of thanks. When you make this kind of determination, God is removed and you become as God. Sound familiar? That’s what Lucifer tried to do.

So, if you have to resist something, resist yourself – “the evil impulses inside” (in Dr. Webber’s quote above). That should keep you so busy you’ll have little time to label the “evil” of others.

Comment below on your attempts to “resist nothing.”

Dr. K

 

Answering The Invitation to Draw Near: A Journey Story

What Getting Serious With God Might Look Like

Eric wonders what’s going on. A few Sundays ago, Pastor Parker, in his 45-minute sermon (ugh!), highlighted the idea that drawing near to God allows God to draw near to us. The idea came directly from what St. James wrote in chapter 4. Eric usually dozes during most of the pastor’s sermons. But, for some reason, he was awake enough to hear this part. What would happen, he thought, if I would try to draw near to God?

When he got home, after a mile-high burger at The Eatery with the family, he couldn’t get the idea of drawing near to God out of his head. Since the Packers-Patriots game wasn’t on until 3:00, he decided to read the passage again.

Do you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the [S]pirit that he has made to dwell in us?” But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and our joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He cringed as he read these verses. He called himself a Christian but knew how much he’d bought into the world’s system of operating – watch out for yourself, make lots of money, be happy, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” be successful, give God a few hours on Sunday but live the rest of the week for yourself. Did this make him an enemy of God? He never thought of it like this before.

Now, as he read the passage again, he felt overwhelmed. There was so much here. If he took it seriously, so much would have to change. So he asked himself, “Should I really do this or should I just think about it and hope the feelings go away?” The game wasn’t on for another 20 minutes so he took out a legal pad and started writing.

For me, what are these things?

  • Friendship with the world – Where have I bought into the world’s system? A start: manipulating people. unbiblical priorities. playing politics. money issues. That’s enough!!
  • the “Spirit he has made to dwell in us?” – Is the Holy Spirit working in me? I guess since something’s happening in me now is proof that He is at work.
  • Grace – nothing happens without God’s grace
  • God opposes the proud? What?!? God actually opposes me? Wake up, man!
  • God gives grace to the humble? I’m screwed! I have little idea what it is to be humble.

What does it mean for me to do these things?

  • Submit to God – ???
  • Resist satan (he’ll flee) – ???
  • Draw near to God (He’ll draw near) – Is this prayer? Reading my Bible? What?
  • Cleanse my hands (of sin) – ???
  • Purify my heart (double-minded) – How can I do this?
  • Be wretched; mourn, weep – Now I’m lost!
  • Let laughter turn to mourning, joy to gloom – lost even more
  • Humble myself before the Lord (he’ll exalt me) – OK. I get the idea. Humility is key. But I don’t know how.

Something was different about this experience. He wasn’t trying to convince himself that it didn’t matter whether these things were lived or not. He was open to the idea that he needed to do something. But he had no idea what to do.

He put up the footrest on the recliner, laid back, and began to think about what it would look like if some of these were true for him. He prayed, “Lord, help me make it happen. I’m tired of saying I’m a Christian but not acting like one…at least not like the Christian described here. Help me…”

By the time he awoke from his nap, the game was already in the second quarter. Drawing near to God was nothing like he’d imagined.

What would it look like if some of these were true for you? Share your story or struggle below.

Dr. K

Encouraging You To Prioritize Your #1 Relationship

A Simple Reminder When You're Pulled In Different Directions

As a 16-year-old boy, God invited me into a deeper relationship with Him. At that time in my life, I was living in Jamaica with time on my hands to read, pray, and spend time with God. I would often meet with God in solitude on our veranda with a gorgeous view of the Caribbean Ocean. In those times God seemed near. I was often reminded of and broken by my youthful sins. God seemed alive in me drawing me to Himself. Those experiences marked my life to this day. I still love being in solitude with God, surrounded by beauty, praying, reading, and sensing a united nearness with God. My struggle is in learning to live in this united nearness in everyday life.

I don’t think I’m unique. I was in conversation with a friend last week who talked of being drawn to God as a 15-year-old. He continues to pursue God with his whole heart even into his 50’s. I wonder how many others had similar experiences in their youth. Did you?

Yet, over a lifetime, it is easy to get sidetracked and distracted from your all-significant relationship with God. Have you let other relationships overshadow your relationship with God? Like your relationship to your:

  • Spouse?
  • Employer?
  • Family?
  • Church?
  • Friends?
  • Business?
  • Hobbies?

Jesus teaches you that your most important relationship is with Him. He even invites you to choose Him above your father, mother and children – your closest earthly relationships. Simple indicators are your time and money. To what relationships does your time and money go?

How are you giving yourself to your relationship with God compared to all other relationships? Is He your #1 relationship?

Share your thoughts below on the struggles and experiences of your relationship with God.

Dr. K

9 Wines That Might Pair Well With Slowing Down and Communing With God

The Labels Give A Hint Of Their Relationship With Spiritual Things

Let’s have some fun today. Some of you might not think this is fun. I don’t want to offend anyone. But, I got to thinking the other day, “I wonder what wines would go well when someone slows down to enjoy some quiet time with God?“

Do you have a favorite place to sit and think about God? Life? Creation? Noble and beautiful ideas? Scripture? I hope so. Your soul finds renewal when you sit by cool waters and in green pastures. There’s something rejuvenating about sitting for a while on a bench in the woods or on your front porch.

I invite you to find a quiet, peaceful place to sit. Surround yourself with the beauty of creation. Or, curl up in front of your fireplace. But before you do, brew yourself a cup of coffee or your favorite tea. Or, better yet, pour yourself a glass of one these wines that pair well with an extended time of quiet with God.

  • St. Hallet Barossa FAITH Shiraz (red blend, Australia)

Faith Shiraz is a vibrant and expressive example of Barossa Shiraz. An accessible, juicy and fruit driven wine, Faith’s vibrant yet dense purple hue hints at the generosity of fruit within.

  • Chateau Grand Bouchon Medoc REVELATIONS (red blend, French)

It’s sincerity was grand (great label, great wine)! Complex blend, not easy to understand the components, but it is intense.

  • CLEAN SLATE Riesling (white, Germany)

The fresh, balanced taste of Clean Slate is achieved by carefully selecting grapes from vineyards throughout the Mosel. The steep blue slate slopes of the Lower Mosel give the wine its minerality while the Middle Mosel provides a hint of spice to complement the characteristic fresh peach flavors of the Upper Mosel.

  • SIMPLE LIFE Chardonnay  (white, California)

…has an appealing, oaky aroma with buttery layers of creamy peach pie and apricot. A delightful balance of fruit-forward flavors and creaminess, this medium bodied wine is a refreshing blend with a long, velvety finish.

  • SIMPLE LIFE Pino Noir  (red, California)

…has a remarkably fruity nose of ripe cherry and strawberry that leaps from the glass, supported by rose petal, English thyme and Tahitian vanilla aromas. Sweetened dried cranberry and plum flavors add tartness to this wine, while clove and sandalwood notes add richness.

  • Fallen Oak PROPHECY (red blend, Tennessee)

Reedy Creek Cellars, Kingsport, TN

  • Justin JUSTIFICATION (red blend, California)

Bright with a beautiful dark purple ruby core and medium concentrated rim. Red and black cherry, black currant, and ripe strawberry fruit with cola, coffee, dark licorice and vanilla spice accents. Full bodied with currant, cherry, and strawberry along with dark black currant on the entry. Sweet tobacco, mineral, and herbal notes on the mid palate with licorice and vanilla spice. Finish is long and complex with red and black fruit candy notes, and spice nicely framed by medium, firm tannins. Elegant and complex

  • Chateau Montfin Cuvee PAULINE Corbieres (red blend, France)

Surprisingly substantial for a corbieres. Complex, very good value. I recommend this especially if you’re meditating on the writings of the Apostle Paul. 🙂 

  • Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva (dry red, Italy)

This wonderful Riserva is produced with selected grapes from the Rocca delle Macie estates. Aged in French road barrels for 24 months it can be cellared for 10 years or more… it is a great MEDITATION wine. (Taken from the description on the back of the bottle.)

Now picture yourself in this serene scene – quiet, glass in hand, mind focused, body relaxed, you and the Trinity in communion. But, don’t stop there. Schedule this time on your calendar within the next two weeks. Then, do it. Be hard-nosed about it. Battle the mental naysayers that tell you this is a waste of time or that you don’t have the time. Don’t let anyone or anything talk you out of it.

I’m not advocating drunkenness or boozing it up. If you’ve struggled with alcohol issues, drink coffee or tea. What I’m advocating is slowing down and relaxing with God.

All the wines above are priced under $20 with the exception of the Justin Justification ($35-$40). Justification is the most expensive. Huh! No surprise, I guess.

Now, wasn’t that fun?

Share below if you tried this “slowing-down” exercise. 

Dr. K 

7 Substantial Issues Raised In The UnCommon Journey 2015 Survey

Results Will Help Guide Us Into a Better Blog

Today, The UnCommon Journey is three months old. It is in its infancy. Yet, like an infant in the family, it is making a difference in people’s lives. And, it has the potential of impacting thousands of lives towards deeper intimacy with God. It is uncommon in its delivery and content both of which have been helped by the recent survey. Here are some significant results.

Who knows your heart?

Responses are not high in any category. Family members (25%) provide the biggest group of people readers say know their hearts. Followed by close friends (20%) then spiritual director/coach (10%) or spiritual friend (10%). Interestingly, most readers go to church every Sunday. Yet, only 5% said their pastor knows their heart. 15% said that no person knows their heart. Considering the percentages, this is quite a significant number.

Post Frequency – time to process

This is very helpful. 85% read 2-3 posts per week. I appreciate one reader who commented on the need to give time to process the posts’ information. So, instead of a goal of four posts/week, I’ll be aiming for three with the possibility that we may settle on two/week as we progress with future tools (see “Future Tools” below).

Why Read?

60% read The UnCommon Journey for encouragement on their spiritual journey. Other categories fit in this one, too. 15% read for fresh ways to relate to God. 10% want to learn to challenge the status quo. We’re on track here with numbers to affirm our direction.

Topics – the core of the survey (respondents marked all that applied)

65% want posts on relating their Christian life to the current culture. There is a real need for some fresh perspective here. I find this a challenge, too. Platitudes will not do.

60% want posts on maintaining a healthy relationship with God and on developing the prayer of the heart. You’re in my wheelhouse here. These first two topics are directly related, though many Christians struggle to know this.

50% desire posts that connect the ancient church/teachings with modern Christian life. I love this and am actually surprised by the strength of this desire. Together with a strong showing of those wanting to read biographies of ancient godly men and women, indicates hearts longing for “the ancient paths.”

40% want to know more about spiritual disciplines followed by topics on Christian spirituality related to home and work.

Future tools

Downloads 72%; podcasts 39%, Homestead House retreats 33%, webinars 17%.

  • Look for more downloadable material in the future.
  • I am in the process of learning how to do podcasts. Many people find listening much more convenient than reading.
  • A beautiful website for Homestead Hospitality House is in development right now. Starting in 2016, you will be able to book a retreat at HHH though this website.

Quality of site and content

Everyone said “very high” or “high.” Thank you!!

 Improvements?

People want The UnCommon Journey to be real, readable, practical, and simple. I hope this is happening already and will continue. I want to challenge your heart and mind but do so in a way accessible to you.

One practical note: you can read the comments of others by clicking on the word “comment” in the lower right-hand corner of each post. I respond to every comment. Some comments are edited. But I post every comment, if possible.

Thanks again for all who participated in the 2015 Survey. Your input helps mark the direction of The UnCommon Journey.

You can help The UnCommon Journey impact lives by sharing with others what is benefiting  you. Place this link   in emails. Share on Facebook and Twitter.

Dr. K