Dying Before You Die: A Reflection

A Sumarai Reflection on Romans 6 by Josh Davis

There’s an old word which, like all great words, has deep meaning. Words like this have a life of their own. It was born quietly somewhere in Japan several centuries back and grew into something powerful. Then like a great investment, it split multiple times, increasing in value far beyond its original, literal meaning. The word is Zanshin (残心).

Meaning of Zanshin 

Literally, Zanshin means “mind with no remainder,” nothing uncontrolled or unintentional. Zanshin is a fundamental focus, where every body system is held in precise, calm alertness. Eventually it came to describe an archer’s stance after loosing an arrow or a swordsman’s fighting stance after striking. Upon executing a maneuver, Zanshin kept the warrior from losing himself.

This was directed, mindful execution of the process and positions of warfare, an instant return to readiness. 

Yet, Zanshin was not a position itself. Rather it was an essence—achieved through muscle memory and the warrior’s awareness of his own death. The Samurai warrior achieved incredible focus and fierce execution because of Zanshin. And he could achieve Zanshin because he did not consider the outcome of the battle. Winning was not the point.

Dying or not dying didn’t matter. He had already died. Only the process of battle mattered.

In a way it makes sense: why would the outcome matter?

There were only two possible outcomes: death now or death later. The Samurai warrior journey was a lifelong path with a violent end. When they signed up, they died. Samurai walked the earth as those already dead. Winning did not matter; only honor and identity mattered. 

So why the nerdy history lesson?

Zanshin & Death

Check out Romans 6:10, 11, 13: “For the death he died he died, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus…present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.”   

It seems that Paul is asking you to presume yourself as one who is already dead yet alive in Christ. So what does that mean: to have died to sin and live as instruments of righteousness? What does it mean to fight battles as if what happens (outcomes) matters little? Could you achieve a Zanshin-like Christian life by realizing our own death while focusing only on the process of communion with the Trinity?

Application to Us

Are you like me: with habitual sin, performance insecurity, or fears of not bearing fruit? What abundant life, peace, or grace might we find if we were not committed to outcomes like sinning less, performing better, or evangelizing everyone – but to dying daily yet living in communion with the Trinity?

What if you lived as if the victory was already decided? Or perhaps better, as if the victory wasn’t the point? Might this be the hope of having the Mind of Christ – a “mind with no remainder” – whose victory was in His passion, in His own death? Did Jesus walk the earth knowing that He had already died? 

How about you?

Where are you too much alive to yourself? Do you realize you are dead (& alive) already in Christ? Share your thoughts below.

Josh 

How To Stop Pride From Destroying Your Life

8 Ways to Help You Deal With Pride

I was sitting with a college president a number of years ago at a Black Angus Steakhouse. The topic of a recently fallen prominent Christian leader came up. The president commented that perhaps a reason for the man’s failings was that, “He began to read his own press releases.” In other words, he started to believe what others where saying about him which inflated his ego and led to his fall. It can happen to any of us. But, “successful” leaders are especially vulnerable to the sin of pride.

Basic Principles

  • Pride must be attacked indirectly. You can’t just stop being proud. You methodically destroy the underpinnings of pride and it begins to collapse.
  • Pride is so pervasive and characteristic that you have difficulty seeing it in yourself. You need to be open to ways that God is humbling you – suffering, trials, words spoken by someone, words written in Scripture or a book, pain, or failures.
  • Pride is what you think of yourself. It is self-perception. But, when you learn to live from your heart you gain a proper perspective on all things including how you view yourself.
  • Pride must be dealt with intentionally and rigorously. It is too powerful to be treated casually. Battle it every day for a lifetime.

As a Christian you are aware of pride’s devastating power.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11.2).

Yet, you may feel powerless to do anything about it.

Help for dealing with pride

  1. Think of pride in new terms. The word “pride” has lost much of its magnitude and punch. It is good to substitute other words to heighten your understanding of its destructive power. Words like Self-importance, Self-sufficiency, Self-love, Egotism/egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Bluster, Haughty, High-minded, and Vanity/vainglory portray pride as it really is.
  2. Endure suffering. Suffering is one of God’s ways of humbling you. Embrace it. Learn from it. (James 1.2-4)
  3. Place yourself under the wise guidance of another and learn obedience (1 Pt 5.5). It’s humbling to do something just because you’re told to. That you don’t obey anyone but yourself tells you something.
  4. Put your trust in God alone not in proud people (Ps 40.4).
  5. Serve others in small ways (Jn 13.13-17). Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. Do something for another anonymously or without desire for recognition. Serve the poor and those in need.
  6. Pray (James 4.10). Kneel, prostrate, or bow when you pray. These movements of humility in prayer act upon your mind and heart. In repentance, ask for a spirit of humility. “Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see the truth about myself.”
  7. Be vigilant. You will always carry with you a sense of “self-something.” Acknowledge that fact. Don’t be surprised when pride shows itself. Admit it. Denying your pride keeps you in darkness.
  8. Be thankful for all things. Instead of feeling hurt when ignored or prideful when praised, be thankful either way. This is the single best way to deal with pride. Say, “Thank you, Lord!” for ALL things.

Where will you begin? Pick out a couple ways to deal with your pride and put them into action. Share your journey below.

Dr. K

Becoming A Healthy & Humble Human Being

A Reflection On Pride

Do you want to live a healthy and humble Christian life? Then you have the life-long assignment of dealing with your pride. Pride keeps you from seeing your pride. Though you barely recognize it in yourself, you are quick to see it in others. You know pride as the king of all sins. Yet you often fail to see how it is ruling your own heart.

Pride Experienced

How do you respond when your actions are questioned, when you are not duly recognized, when you are corrected, when you are ignored, or when someone else is honored? Do you get angry or defensive or sarcastic or pitiful? (I know this territory well!?!)

How do you respond when you’re applauded, honored, or praised? Honestly. How much of your response is grounded in pride?

John Chrysostom (349-407) writes about the sin of pride:

Nothing so estranges us from the mercy of God and gives over to the fire of hell as the tyranny of pride. If we possess this within us all our life becomes impure even if we practice chastity, virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, or any virtue whatsoever. Every proud man, scripture says, is an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, let us check this puffing up of the soul and let us cut out this tumor if we wish to be pure and be rid of the punishment prepared for the devil.

One of the things St. Chrysostom detested was the applause and flattery of those to whom he preached. He said:

“To me it is nothing when I am applauded and well spoken of. There is only one thing I ask of you-to prove your approval of me through your works. That is how you can speak well of me, and that is what is going to do you good. This, to me, is the greatest honor. I prefer it to a material crown. I do not desire applause and being well spoken of. I have one request to make-for you to listen to me in quiet attentiveness and to put my advice into practice. This is not a theater. You don’t sit here in order to admire actors and to applaud them. This is a place where you must learn the things of God.”

Pride Described 

Pride can be described as “a foolish and irrational sense of one’s own personal status or accomplishments.” I am wealthy…a victim…a success…a professional…a government official…a musician…a church leader…an author…a somebody. Anything can be made a matter of pride. I particularly like this definition – Pride is “disagreement with the truth.” We don’t know who we really are but dress ourselves up with labels to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. That’s pride.

I recognize that facts are facts. You are some one who does some thing. Yet, it’s your unrealistic perception of who you are and what you do that is a matter of pride.

As St. Augustine writes, pride is “the love of one’s own excellence.”

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), the Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during WW II and was imprisoned for her actions, illustrates one way of dealing with pride:

A few years ago, in a press conference following a ceremony in which Corrie ten Boom was given an honorary degree, one of the reporters asked her if it was difficult remaining humble while hearing so much acclaim. She replied immediately, “Young man, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments in the road and singing, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?”
She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in his glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor.”

You gotta’ love that – We’re less-than-attractive donkeys carrying about praise-worthy Jesus Christ! None of the accolade is for us. Let’s see ourselves for who we really are. Let’s see Jesus Christ for who He really is.

In the next post, I’ll address ways to “cut out this tumor” from the perspective of a struggling egotist.

Any thoughts so far? Share them below.

Dr. K

How To Actually “Pray Without Ceasing”

Practical Suggestions To Keep You In God's Presence All Day Long

For many years, I struggled in my attempts to remember God throughout the day. I was too busy, too distracted, too ignorant, and too inexperienced to know what it was like to commune with God all day long. I would start out well enough in morning devotions and prayer. But, a sense of God’s presence did not remain with me when the day got going.

How can you begin to commune with God in your every day life? Just a hint – it won’t happen by reading this blog post. It won’t happen by wanting it to happen. It won’t happen by longing for it. It won’t happen by reading a book on how to commune with God 24/7. You will need to learn to commune with God by training yourself over a long period of time. And, of course, your training will only be effective as participate in the grace and life of God flowing in you. I boils down to this. You are able to commune with God throughout the day as you learn to pray from your heart.

But you begin by saying prayers throughout the day. As you continually do this, you begin to notice your heart being drawn into communion with God. Now you’re getting somewhere!

Real Prayers for Real Communion

Here are three prayers that you can say often during the day. Train yourself to commune with God by saying them as often as you’re able.

  1. Lord Jesus, teach me to pray. This is taken from the disciples’ question to Jesus as they observed him praying.
  2. Lord, enlighten my darkness. This is an “arrow” prayer (shot to the heart of God) made most prominent by St. Gregory Palamas (14th c.)
  3. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Known as the Jesus Prayer, this is a theological and personal expression of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Repeat one or all of these prayers throughout the day. Do this for days, months, and years. You’ll find yourself actually living life in communion with the Triune God.

Obeying Scripture

You’ll also find that you are fulfilling some challenging scriptural exhortations –

  • Continue steadfastly in prayer (Colossians 4.2)
  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17)
  • Praying always with all supplication (Ephesians 6.18)
  • Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11.1)

The solution to your desire to commune with God all day long is to learn to pray from the heart. Pray. Pray. And, pray some more. Pray these short prayers. By the grace of God, you will become prayer…and communion will take place.

Which prayer will become “your” prayer today? How about this week? month? year?

Share below your experiences of learning to pray. Comment on your struggles or joys as you learn to pray. 

Dr. K 

Reflections on An UnCommon Journey in Arizona

A Story of Meeting God in Creation

It’s really encouraging to hear how The UnCommon Journey is affecting lives. I write about our life in God which transforms us from the inside-out. I write whether anyone reads the posts or not. But when you read and engage it matters to you and others. Thank you!!

Recently I had a conversation with a good friend who told me this story. I asked him to write it down and send it to me to be shared with you all.

Just a quick note to let you know about an experience this past March while visiting Arizona. My wife and I along with two other close friends were enjoying hiking a few of the many areas around Tucson. One beautiful sunny morning, we set out to Sabino Canyon for a 7 mile walk. About halfway through the hike, high on the trail ridge we stopped to rest and take in the beauty of God’s creation.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon, Arizona

We were captivated by the stillness – no sound, just a pervasive quiet for miles around that filled our souls. I don’t know why but I reached in my pocket for my smartphone. Curious, I checked for a signal. Surprise! I had a weak connection.

I went to my mail and a new “UnCommon Journey” post popped up. I said to our little group, “Do you mind a quick devotional this morning?” They agreed. So there, in the stillness of the morning, perched high on a ridge looking out across the canyon we experienced thoughts on “Spiritual Fitness” from the March 3rd blog post.

We all were thankful for your simple exhortation to worship and experience our God. It was a very special time, a moment that will certainly be remembered. So, thanks for your ministry in helping us grow closer to God. 

I smile every time I think about it.

Thanks, Joe, for sharing your thoughts with us.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience of reading an UnCommon Journey post that affected you in a special way. We all would love to hear your story. 

I invite you to write out your story and send to me. I’ll share these periodically on The UnCommon Journey blog.

Send your story to [email protected]

Thanks!!


Dr. K.

How to Become a True Theologian With One Practice

Don't Be Fooled By Sincere Substitutes

The purpose of prayer is to know God. It is not primarily to get things from God or to talk to God. Prayer is communion with God in such a way that two hearts unite as one. This is how you get to know God. The Desert Father, St. Evagrius of Ponticus (c. 345-399) wrote: “If you are a theologian, you will truly pray, and if you truly pray, you will be a theologian.” (On Prayer, #61)

Perhaps you have been made to feel guilty because you don’t know enough “theology.” You’ve been told that a good Christian will know certain facts about God. Study this theology. Read this book. Take this course. Attend this conference.

Become a Calvinist. Study Anglicanism. Get to know Wesley. Read Grudem. Learn Greek. Memorize verses. Check out Chan, Stanley, Platt, Piper, and Keller.

Better yet – ditch all that and devote yourself to prayer!

Don’t neglect the one thing that will actually benefit your heart’s knowledge of God – prayer.

Silent prayer.

Abiding.

Communing.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Being still.

Entering your closet with God alone.

Listening.

Attending to God.

Loving God with your heart and soul.

Participating in God’s life.

      Pray like this and you’ll become a true theologian. 

Share your thoughts below. Share this post with your friends. 

Dr. K

P.S. If you devote yourself to prayer, it is good to have a companion who walks with you. This kind of prayer journey can be dangerous, painful, lonely, and yet glorious and satisfying. Find a seasoned prayer companion who will support you.

An Urgent Message to Ted Cruz and His Loyal Supporters

Too Many Americans Put Their Trust in Politicians

Hello Mr. Cruz and Your Supporters,

I see that you want us to trust you. Trust is such a strong word. Trust is an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Words matter. You’re only human and a politician. But that simple combination of distinctions makes me hesitant to place my trust in you. I know trust doesn’t have to be 100% to be considered trust. (Some philosophers say that if your trust is at least 51% then you can consider it to actually be trust.) Yet, so much goes into trusting a person. For me, you’re not there. I’m not sure any politician is there. I trust some people I know. But most of all I do my best to trust the only One who is fully Trustworthy.

Too many Americans put too much trust in politicians.

So, here’s my message to all of you…

  1. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3.5-6)
  2. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness… (Matthew 6.33)
  3. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11.25)
  4. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20.7)
  5. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4.6, 10)
  6. Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3.1-2)
  7. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2.3)
  8. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them. (Proverbs 26.12)
  9. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice. (Proverbs 29.26)
  10. The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147.11)
  11. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17.7-8)

Good luck to you all.

Dr. K

A Message to Bernie Sanders & His Loyal Supporters

11 Kingdom-Related Realities That Make a Difference to Millions

Hello Mr. Sanders and Your Supporters,

I noticed your campaign slogan is “A Future to Believe In.” Are you serious? You must think we’re all idiots. You’re wanting us to put our trust in your definition and vision of the future? Do you think your picayune political viewpoint can provide a future that outshines what God has for us? You think your political vision is superior to the other candidates. But, it is negligible when compared to the kingdom of God where millions of us live now and where we will live more fully in the future.  You ask, “But, where is God’s Kingdom?” I say, “It’s all around you. You just need a heart to see.” When the King rules, all other rulers fade in significance.

So, here’s my message to all of you…

  1. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness… (Matthew 6.33)
  2. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11.25)
  3. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4.6, 10)
  4. Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3.1-2)
  5. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.13)
  6. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2.3)
  7. Some boast/trust in chariots and some in horses, but we boast/trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20.7)
  8. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them (Proverbs 26.12)
  9. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8.13)
  10. The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147.11)
  11. The kingdom of God is in you/in your midst. (Luke 17.21)

I’m a fellow-American who has soured on politics and politicians. It’s your fault. You promise too much and deliver too little. You make it sound like my future is in your hands…that you can actually make my life better…that I need to trust you. Sorry! That position in my life belongs to Someone Else. Presidents, their promises, and their fans come and go. My hope is in a much more Sure Foundation. My life actually flourishes with or without you.

Good luck to you all.

Dr. K

An Urgent Message to Donald Trump & His Enthusiastic Supporters

11 Thought-Provoking Ideas (& a Major Bonus Idea) to Make America Great

Hello Mr. Trump & Supporters,

I’m a fellow-American who has soured on politics and politicians. It’s your fault. You promise too much and deliver too little. You make it sound like my future is in your hands…that you can actually make my life better…that I need to trust you. Sorry! That position in my life belongs to Someone Else. Presidents, their promises, and their fans come and go. My hope is in a much more Sure Foundation. My life actually flourishes with or without you.

So, here’s my message to all of you…

  1. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness… (Matthew 6.33)
  2. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11.25)
  3. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4.6, 10)
  4. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10.10)
  5. Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3.1-2)
  6. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.13)
  7. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2.3)
  8. Some boast/trust in chariots and some in horses, but we boast/trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20.7)
  9. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them (Proverbs 26.12)
  10. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8.13)
  11. The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147.11)

I see you want to make America great again. I’m not sure what you mean by that. “Great” can be pretty ambiguous.

I’d just remind you what One who actually knows how to be great says:

You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to serve, but to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20.25-28)

You’re not to lord it over us, coerce us by your authority, or push your personal agenda on us. You are to serve as you lead. I hope that’s what you mean by making America great again.

Good luck to you all.

Dr. K