15 Reasons To Connect Resurrection, Solitude, & Stillness

Stillness: Participating in the Activity of God

Easter Sunday has come and gone for many. Yet, the reality of the resurrection still lives on. Here’s a thought that came to me this week: the resurrection takes place in solitude & stillness. No blaring trumpets. No chorus of angels. No lightening flashes. No earthquakes. No cheering crowds. No sounds at all. This is the experience of Jesus. It can be your experience as well when you enter solitude and become still.

Experience solitude and stillness so you can experience the life of resurrection.

I have often come to my morning time of solitude feeling “out of sorts;” filled with concerns that weighed me down. But, after being in solitude and stillness with God, I felt refreshed and alive again.

Why is this? Because, stillness is not a “thing.” It is the activity of the Trinity in which you can participate. There is much activity taking place in Divine stillness. The persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit relate to each other as they are still. In fact, they are Stillness. Amazingly, in Divine-human stillness you experience that activity.

So…

  1. Come to Stillness in your weakness and experience Strength.
  2. Come to Stillness in your anxiety and experience Peace.
  3. Come to Stillness in your confusion and experience Wisdom.
  4. Come to Stillness in your sadness and experience Joy.
  5. Come to Stillness in your pain and experience Contentment.
  6. Come to Stillness in your doubt and experience Faithfulness.
  7. Come to Stillness in your despair and experience Hope.
  8. Come to Stillness in your sin and experience Forgiveness.
  9. Come to Stillness in your grief and experience Comfort.
  10. Come to Stillness in your brokenness and experience Healing.
  11. Come to Stillness in your chaos and experience Order.
  12. Come to Stillness in your fear and experience Calm.
  13. Come to Stillness in your ugliness and experience Beauty.
  14. Come to Stillness in your darkness and experience Light.
  15. Come to Stillness in your aversion and experience Love.

…Because the God who is Stillness is Life and the Source of life.

Don’t shy away from God when you’re not doing well.

That’s when He enters and gives new life.

Where are you today? Enter Stillness and receive what you need.

37 Mistakes I Made as A Church Leader

What Can You Learn From My Mistakes?

Leading people is a challenging and rewarding process. It takes heart and skills that few possess well. There is much to learn as you lead. However, you often learn best from your mistakes. Perhaps, my mistakes will help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Some of you who knew me during my pastoring years may say, “Only 37?” Yes, I know. But, I don’t want to make this post too long.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes as a pastoral leader. I…

  1. Thought pastoral ministry would be life-giving. (In reality, ministry drains you. Only God energizes you.)
  2. Devoted more time to study than prayer.
  3. Did not know the hearts of people.
  4. Talked a lot about God but didn’t really know Him.
  5. Let the opinions and feelings of people affect me too much.
  6. Too often neglected to nourish my own soul.
  7. Thought preaching would solve people’s problems. (Telling people things does little to change their lives.)
  8. Put too much trust in programs.
  9. Too often taught what I did not live. (I needed to admit this but didn’t. In reality, I often taught Bible theory.)
  10. Tried to take people where I had not gone myself. (Related to #9.)
  11. Ignored 2000 years of church history affecting almost everything I did.
  12. Preached sermons that were too long. (Some enjoyed it. Some tolerated it. Some hated it.)
  13. Tolerated cynical people instead of understanding their perspective and dealing with them truthfully in love.
  14. Failed to follow up.
  15. Took criticism too personally becoming defensive too easily.
  16. Thought I knew what I was doing.
  17. Failed to ask for help.
  18. Was too sensitive about the wrong things.
  19. Sacrificed who I was as God wonderfully designed me.
  20. Expected too little from people.
  21. Desired accolades from my peers.
  22. Didn’t value humility for myself and others.
  23. Did not highly value the teachings of Jesus.
  24. Did not deal with my own internal garbage that often stunk up my ministry.
  25. Put too much value on the sermon. (I was taught to “sermonize” a certain way. I didn’t know any better. I wish I had.)
  26. Thought a theological system was the solution to understanding the Bible.
  27. Made more judgments on people than asked questions of people.
  28. Was far too judgmental/contemptuous towards people.
  29. Sought the approval of others. Loved the “atta boy.”
  30. Tried to control/guide peoples’ journey instead of joining God’s journey for them.
  31. Did not choose my battles well – dealt with skirmishes as if they were wars.
  32. Did not take seriously enough my own relationship with God.
  33. Didn’t speak the truth in love because I really didn’t know love.
  34. Was much too dogmatic about what I thought was the truth.
  35. Relied too much on commentaries and books.
  36. Was driven too much by my own agenda thinking it was God’s agenda.
  37. Often placed ministry concerns above family concerns. This mistake continues to haunt me.

Which of these do you relate to? What can you learn from my mistake? How can you be or do differently? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

How to Pray Better: 2 Prayer-Altering Thoughts

Keep It Simple and Loving

Do you struggle with prayer? I think I can help. I’ve devoted my life to prayer. God has given me the gift of time to pray. I take advantage of my inner “morning person” to pray. Lots of people have helped me to pray. It’s my life’s aim to learn how to commune with God in prayer in everyday life. I love to pray. But, believe me, it hasn’t always been this way.

Learning to Pray is a Journey 

I only bring up my current prayer situation to illustrate a change in attitude towards prayer that can happen to anyone who desires it and intentionally does something with that desire. I am not boasting or being unduly pious. I am just writing out of my own experience.

I used to dismiss prayer as a waste of time. I used to read books on prayer thinking that would make me a better “pray-er.” I’d preach on it but have little experience of it. When I started exploring prayer, I developed detailed plans on how I was going to do it. But, it’s taken me a couple decades to figure out that my approach to prayer has been too self-directed and messy. I was making it harder on myself than it needed to be. Can you relate?

I now recognize that the way you learn to pray is to pray. Start where you are and go from there.

Two Prayer-Altering Thoughts 

Take these with you as you pray:

  1. Prayer is simple. It is communion with God. So, just show up. Be with God. Prayer is about spending time in relationship with the Trinity. You don’t have to prepare a good speech or a list of things to say. You don’t have to clean yourself up. You don’t need books or devotional writings. The Father, Son, and Spirit await your arrival. Simply give them your time and attention.
  2. Prayer is love. It is experiencing God’s love. It is loving God in return. St. Augustine says: “True, whole prayer is nothing but love.” Richard Foster writes: “True prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love.” Genuine prayer is living in God’s love – nothing more, nothing less.

If you don’t like prayer because you’ve made it too complicated, clear the deck. Start over. Begin with simplicity then develop other aspects of prayer later.

If you don’t like prayer because you question God’s love, think that He doesn’t like you all that much or doesn’t want to spend time with you, then show up and see what happens. It won’t be as bad as you might think. You may very well experience God’s love even when you are unsure of it.

What’s your “take away” from this post? Share below. And share this post with others. 

Dr. K 

5 Forgotten Concepts That Help Your Relationships Flourish

Relationships Are Worth Improving

I am no relationship expert. I suspect that those who are experts struggle in their relationships just like I do. Relationships are one of the great gifts and responsibilities given to us by God. We all want our relationships to flourish. Here are some reminders that help in moving relationships forward…including our relationship with God.

1. Health – As you get better, your relationships improve. Are you aware of flaws within yourself that prevent relationships from developing? Are you doing something about it? I know someone who drives people away due to her self-centeredness. Yet, her self-obsession prevents her from seeing herself as she really is. Don’t be like her. Commit yourself to changing yourself. One who has friends must be a friend. Become a person people desire to befriend.

As you become spiritually healthy, you will relate to God more intimately. Deal with the personal issues that harm this relationship – sin, false beliefs, misunderstandings, or wounds.

2. Time – Being together has no substitute. “Being with” are powerful words. They mean that you are actually fully engaged with the other person – mind, body, and soul.

Your relationship with God flourishes as you learn to “be with” Him. Whether in quiet times of intimate solitude or in the stillness of your own heart amidst the noise of everyday life, time with God deepens your relationship with Him.

3. Journey – Don’t expect too much too soon. Or, even better, keep your expectations in check. Simply walk day-by-day in the relationship and see where it takes you. It’s not about a destination. It’s about the process of knowing, synergy, and participation in another’s life.

Participating in the life of God is the definition of salvation. Eternal life is knowing God. All this is a journey in and with God. This journey is not focused on a destination. Its focus is a relationship.

4. Experience – In the experiences of good times and difficult times, you learn and grow together. Expand your experiences together.

As you experience God, your relationship with Him moves forward. It is good to read about God in the Bible and books and hear about Him in sermons. But, there is nothing like experiencing Him first-hand in and around you. That’s when the relationship moves to a whole new level.

5. Forbearance – You are willing to accept the shortcomings and weaknesses of others. You recognize that the value of a good relationship trumps the often insignificant matters you hold dear.

Have you ever been disappointed with God? He didn’t perform in the way you thought He should? In other words, He fell short of meeting your standards. He came off as weak. Exercise some forbearance with God. He’s probably wanting you to move forward in your relationship with Himself. Being frustrated with Him gets you agitated enough to start moving.

Life is about who you are in relationship with others including the Trinity.

I invite you to flourish in all your relationships as you deepen in your relationship with God.

Which concept above did you need to be reminded of most? How will that make a difference in a relationship this week? How will you practice that concept? 

Dr. K 

A Confession About Fearing To Love People Who Are Different Than I Am

I Need The Love & Mercy of God

Fear controls my life much more than I’d like to admit. Fear wants to paralyze me. It prevents me from loving well. Yet I tolerate it. I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid to succeed. I’m afraid to love. I’m really afraid to love someone who is different than I am. But…isn’t that pretty much everybody?

So, what’s my problem? I know in my head that fear damages love. I’m like Peter. I step out of the boat to embrace Love but I sink in fear. I read, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (I John 4.18). Yet, I doubt. Can you relate with me?

If I was a 300 pound slob who smoked a pack a day, drove an old beater, and said “damn” much too often, would you treat me with contempt or deference, treat me as a project, or treat me with love? If I was a 195 pound, 6’ 3” handsome successful attorney, would you treat me with contempt or deference, treat me as a project, or treat me with love? Or, in both instances, would you be afraid to even talk to me?

Is Loving Like Jesus Possible? 

Rhonda and I saw the movie “Risen” last week. One of the most touching scenes for me occurs when Jesus is with his disciples in Galilee after the resurrection. They all observe some people cruelly ridding their village of a poor leper, kicking him, beating him, yelling at him as they inhumanely drive him away. He is left in the wilderness, a heap of painful nothingness. Jesus calmly moves from his disciples and walks to the leper, sits down next to him and lovingly embraces him. As his disciples, and the unbelieving Roman Clavius, watch from a distance, Jesus speaks words of love and healing to the man who slowly gets up and walks away healed and forever changed. And I, sitting in a comfortable theater having stuffed myself on popcorn and Coke, said to myself, “I want to be like that Jesus” knowing full well that I probably never will.

I was emotionally touched but unchanged. As much as I think I’d like to be as loving as “that” Jesus, fear prevents me. I fear those who are different. I am so far from love. Maybe I can begin to love them by, at least, not labeling them. Yah, I think I’ll start there.

I Need Prayer

Pray for me. Pray for yourself. Pray that we’ll know God and His love such that fear has little grip on us. Pray to welcome the stranger and love the enemy. Pray for God’s mercy on us and on “them.” It’s a start. Who knows where it will take us.

“O, Lord and King, grant that I might see my own faults and not to judge my brother.” (from Prayer of St. Ephrem; died 373)

Share your thoughts below. Do you struggle to love someone who is different?

Dr. K

Heaven For The Rest Of Us

Heaven is Real - In You

The goal of salvation is not to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.

This is not just a cute and catchy cliche’. “Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was true? I get into heaven and a little bit of heaven on earth gets thrown in.”

Defining Salvation & Heaven 

This statement is a defining statement. To define is to give the meaning of something. So, I am saying that the goal of salvation is to get heaven into you. To define the goal of salvation as “saving us from hell and getting us into heaven” is to miss out on the depth and breadth of what “salvation” truly is.

If the goal of salvation is to get you into heaven then why are you still here? You say you’re saved. Yet, you’re not in “heaven.” What’s wrong? It’s probably a combination of misunderstanding the reality of salvation and the reality of heaven. Today, I simply want to focus on heaven.

The Reality of Heaven 

Is there a longing in your heart for heaven? By that I mean, a deep desire to experience heaven in your soul right now? You might think that heaven is a far off distant land filled with golden streets and glistening buildings. Where did you get that idea?

Heaven is wherever the Trinity dwells. And the Trinity dwells everywhere  – even in you.

Deep within you is a longing for eternal Fullness, Goodness, and Beauty – what you might call heaven. I’m not talking visions and feelings here. I’m talking reality. A reality that is yours right now. Yes, you long for what you already have.

Of course, you might not feel like you already possess heaven. The way life is beating you around, it may actually feel like hell on earth. But, that’s when your feelings need a reality check.

When Jesus teaches: “Seek first the kingdom of God” it is not because the kingdom is hidden or “out there somewhere” and needs to be found. He is teaching us to seek what’s already here but needs to be experienced more fully. This may be more difficult for you who are going through hard times. Yet, the kingdom of heaven still exists in you and can be experienced.

As you walk this journey in God, open your heart to heaven’s fullness. Experience where that takes you.

Pray today: “Oh Heavenly King, who is everywhere present, bring heaven home to me.”  

Dr. K

2 Unconventional Ways to Become Spiritually Fit

Exercise Makes All The Difference

I have devoted the rest of my life to learning how to become spiritually fit. This journey began when I was 16 years old. I struggled for over 35 years with my own spiritual fitness while involved in church and missions ministry. Along the way, I learned that those who are spiritually fit instill in their daily life a few deeply meaningful practices. These practices become a “way of life” so effective that these “spiritual athletes” actually become like Christ.  

Here are two unconventional ways to improve your life and relationships: 

1. Follow Those Who Are Spiritually Fit 

I must admit, I’m not impressed when most modern-day theologians, preachers, teachers, writers, or speakers talk about spiritual fitness. Their understanding of spiritual fitness is limited to what they think about it. It’s mostly theory, not real life, for them. I want to hear from those who are actually fit or at least devote themselves to struggling to become fit. 

When those who are intentionally and intensely fit speak of three time-tested practices that open their hearts to real communion with God and others, you and I need to pay attention. 

Time-Tested Practices 

Those who live out of the life and teachings of the Ancient Church, have taught these practices for centuries. Establish these first in your life, then look at other practices if you must.  

  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Almsgiving 

I wrote about these in my last post. I invite you to read that post for more information. 

2. Exercise  

For your physical health you basically need to do three things well – eat, sleep, exercise/stay active. When one of these gets missed or messed up it doesn’t matter what else you do. You’ll always struggle with poor health. 

For us moderns, exercise is the most challenging activity. But when exercise is a regular part of daily life, eating and sleeping improve. This year I’m engaged in a regular fitness program. I joined a fitness center, exercise 4-5 times/week, and follow guidelines from a health professional. My eating and sleeping have greatly improved. This positively impacts all my relationships and my work. 

For your spiritual fitness, you need to exercise – pray, fast, give to those in need. You will always struggle with your spiritual fitness if you do not exercise. But when you learn to practice these simple challenges, you discover a deepening love relationship God and others that indicates the level of your spiritual fitness. When you exercise you, your relationships, and your work improve.

Here are some action steps:  

  • Take a close look at these three practices.
  • Determine one way you can begin to engage each one.
  • Ask God to direct your heart in these challenges.
  • Then, engage each one meaningfully and prayerfully. 
  • Be attentive to how your experience of each practice makes you spiritually fit. 
  • Find the joyful struggles and benefits that come by training yourself for godliness.

Share with us how your “spiritual fitness program” is going for you. 

Dr. K 

3 Essential Practices on Your Journey to Godliness

Simple and Challenging

You don’t drift into Godlikeness. You don’t automatically become godly just because you are a Christian. For many years, I thought this way. I thought that God would pick me up and toss me into a place called “godliness.” Since I was justified by faith alone, surely I’d be sanctified by faith alone. After all, I didn’t want to be accused of believing in works-righteousness. So, it took many years of frustration, heart-ache, and re-orientation for me to realize the error of my thinking.  

A journey to godliness involves desire, vision, intention, and means. I’ve written about the first three components already.

Three Basic Practices

I am learning that these basic exercises do wonders in moving me more towards godliness. Why these three? 

  • These three basic practices are taught by Jesus, the Apostles and the early Church moving forward. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen on hard times. Modern Christianity has reduced Christian living to less helpful and more convenient practices. Struggle and “long-suffering” have lost their necessary place in a psychologicalized and superficial Christianity.  
  • You will become more and more godly as you take up these simple challenges. For these practices to aid your journey to godliness, they must be…well…practiced. Growth comes as you struggle and persevere in their practice. You do what you don’t want to do in order to accomplish what you want to be. 

1. Prayer – Quietly commune with God in your heart and mind. This is not an incessant chit-chat with God. It’s more like a meaningful conversation filled with listening. Jesus teaches us to do this by his own example. He often went out to a secluded place to commune with his Father. Training yourself in the art of prayer is the first step to godliness. You become like the One you spend time with. Begin by praying: “Lord, teach me to pray.” 

How does prayer help you become more like God? The persons of the Trinity are in communion with one another always. So much so that they probably do not even use words to communicate. They know one another. Christians in silent prayer also allow for this God-like kind of communion. 

2. Fasting – Abstaining from what is good so that something better will result. This is the practice of letting go of what you think you “need” in order to learn to rely on God’s provision. Jesus, in his humanity, fasted. By fasting, you confront your mind’s faulty perceptions of certain foods and activities as absolute essentials to life. And, you discover new places for God in your life. 

Fast from certain foods – meat, sugar, fast food, caffeine, or dairy and see what happens. Or, fast from certain activities – watching TV, listening to the car radio, going to movies, talking, interrupting a conversation, complaining, criticizing, or spending so much time on your computer.

Exercise yourself by fasting and you will experience what a hold these things have on you – how attached you are to them. You will learn how little you trust God. You’ll get a glimpse of how weak you are and how much you need to experience God. 

Fasting helps you become more like God as your inner passions and the world lessen their grip on you and as the life of God finds more room to operate in your life.  

3. Almsgiving – Offer something valuable for the good of another and yourself. Give what you have for the good of others especially if it’s inconvenient or sacrificial for you. I’d recommend giving to people to whom you wouldn’t ordinarily give. God sends rain on the good and the evil. Jesus teaches us to bless our enemies as well as our friends. 

Give money to the man holding the sign at your exit. Ask his name. Pray for him later by name. You don’t know what he’ll do with the money. Don’t presume you know. Give without judgment, like God.

Find something you value – a collector’s item, books, clothing, time – and give it to someone you don’t like all that much. Do it anonymously if need be. Offer hospitality to a stranger.

You become more like God as you give graciously and sacrificially to others. God gives to sinners and saints alike. God-like love grows in you as you care for the poor. God continually gives of himself. When you imitate him, you become more like him.

Prayerfully pick a practice. Determine how you will implement it. Begin today. 

Dr. K