10 Daily Habits That Will Make You A More Enlightened Christian

Uncommon Ways to Become More Like Christ

Now here’s a word we don’t hear too often – enlightened. I wonder why? Sounds too Buddhist or New Agey? Is it due to its association with  the European intellectual movement (17th – 18th c.) emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition? (Oxford American Dictionary) I’m using it in its most basic understanding: greater knowledge and understanding of a subject or situation (in this case, God). The word describes a person becoming more spiritually aware; growing in wisdom. I’m using the word to describe Christians who haven’t cemented themselves to their current understanding of God. Nor are they where they were 10-40 years ago.

Recently on Facebook a friend announced that he was celebrating 50 years of using the same devotional guide book. I wondered why he hadn’t moved on. Remember Our Daily Bread? Good stuff. But for whom? After a while don’t you sense that God is inviting you to a deepening love relationship enlightened by simply being with Him?

Those that know this sense, are commonly in the process of developing these habits:

  1. Engaging in ordered prayer: This could be morning prayer liturgies or praying the hours throughout the day, saying the Jesus prayer or a phrase from the Psalms. Their heart and mind are focused on the Trinity for moments during the day as communion with God becomes the norm.
  2. Giving away something of value: Every day they contribute to the needs of others – no strings attached. These are usually small concrete actions for the good of others – helping the guy on the corner; giving a good tip to the server, an anonymous gift to an enemy, or “random” gift to a child;  donating to a nonprofit, or thoughtfully serving around the house.
  3. Acquiescing to scripture: They don’t analyze scripture but let scripture evaluate them. This is allowing scripture to dissect you instead of you dissecting scripture.
  4. Denying self: They control their appetites and passions primarily by fasting of some kind – from food, drink, TV, computer, radio, movies, books, buying and consuming – for some greater good like communing with God in prayer.
  5. Practicing thanksgiving: They are in the habit of saying “Thank you” for ALL things. They rarely complain. It’s a priority to learn contentment and be filled up with God.
  6. Engaging people: They live daily for others. They know life is not about themselves. They look for ways to support others – scanning the scene for opportunities to open a door, pick up a dropped item, let someone go ahead, or smile.
  7. Doing meaningful work: They develop practical ways to bloom where planted. They turn the mundane into prayer, sing in the struggles, see beauty in the hardship, and actually labor in the Lord.
  8. Living daily to know God: They take daily steps to figure out how to awaken and see God everywhere. Their experience of union with Christ is maturing. They are slowly learning to commune with God in ordinary life.
  9. Refraining from judging others: They daily pray, “keep a watch over my mouth” and take intentional steps to, at least, not speak judgment towards others. Their goal, by God’s grace, is to be as loving to others as He is to them.
  10. Exercising ego-shattering disciplines:  They continually ask for mercy. Daily they pray liturgically in solitude and silence. They prevent conversations to center on themselves. They fast, give generously, and pray constantly. They intentionally keep their opinions in check and are quick to acknowledge when they mess up. They listen well and talk little.

None of these habits address becoming enlightened directly. Growing in wisdom is a byproduct of communion with God.

To which habit are you most drawn? Which habit do you most need to develop? 

Dr. K 

So, I’ve Got Some Questions About “Liturgical Prayer”

Q & A With Johnny P.

Johnny P. has been hanging around The UnCommon Journey for a few months. He enjoys reading the posts that challenge the status quo of his nondenominational upbringing. Right now he’s burned out on church. So, the UnCommon Journey posts help keep him afloat spiritually. But, when he read the post about liturgical prayers a couple days ago it was almost too much. He just had to respond.

Johnny P.: Dr. K, why are you emphasizing prayer liturgy, rhythms of prayer, rituals, and a rule of prayer?

Dr. K: I believe this is what Jesus taught his disciples in the “Lord’s Prayer.” When asked “Teach us to pray” Jesus responded by giving them words to say and ways to say them. Learning something always involves repeated practice. Ask a pianist, baseball player, writer, or electrician how he or she learned their craft. Practice. Practice. Practice. Prayer is no exception. You learn to pray by practicing praying. Set prayers make this possible.

Johnny P: Doesn’t Jesus teach against such things telling us to “not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do because they think they will be heard for their many words?” We are not supposed to be like them, right?

Dr. K: Look at Jesus’ words closely. He is giving at least two prohibitions:

  1. to not keep repeating empty phrases, that is, prayers that lack meaning, substance, and purpose.
  2. don’t be like the Gentiles who believe they’ll get what they want from God using piles and piles of words. Jesus is pointing out their faulty motivation – to be heard or get results. The notion that if you pray using the right words, saying them often enough with a genuine heart and perhaps some real emotion, comes from a worldly (Gentile/pagan) understanding of God and your relationship with Him. True prayer is not a place for negotiation or bargaining  – if I say the right things in the right way I’ll get what I want. That’s manipulation not prayer. And, God will not be manipulated.

Actually, Jesus is critiquing many contemporary Christians’ style of prayer not liturgical prayer.

So, the solution is to use words/phrases that are innately filled with meaning. Be motivated by simple humility, repentance, and love as you commune with God. And that’s exactly what Jesus introduces with “Our Father…” and his other prayer teachings on solitude/secrecy, forgiveness, fasting, treasures, the “eye,” devotion, anxiety, judging, and asking (Matthew 6 & 7).

Also, note that Jesus says “don’t use empty phrases” but then gives us phrases to be used. Obviously, He is not speaking against the use of “set prayers” but against the meaningless ways they are used.

Johnny P: Shouldn’t we just pray as the Spirit leads and follow our hearts? Isn’t that genuine prayer? What you’re talking about is man-made and dead ritualism.

Dr. K: Think about it for a second – all prayers spoken by humans are “man-made.” A person formulates the thoughts and speaks the words. There is one exception. The Lord’s Prayer (as it has come to be known) is a prayer that is God/man made. When Jesus teaches on prayer He does not teach us to “follow our hearts” or even “go where the Spirit leads.” He give us words and a way to say those words.

Where in scripture do we read “follow your heart” or “go where the Spirit leads” in relationship to prayer? You may be thinking of Romans 8.26: “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The context of this statement is suffering by creation and humanity. In our suffering the Spirit helps us when we do not know how to pray effectively.

The Spirit helps us overcome or persevere in our weaknesses

  1. by teaching us how to pray
  2. by interceding for us when we are at loss for words

There is no mention of the Spirit giving us words or leading our thoughts. He enables us to pray in the midst of our suffering and/or He prays for us when we are not able.

No doubt, all true prayer is “prayer in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1.20). Whether you are saying the words of an ancient prayer, a Psalm, scripture, a modern prayer book, or are praying in silence, it is the Spirit of God Who gives life and meaning to your prayer. The words or silence are empty and meaningless without Him. Prayers of any sort will not be dead ritual when the Spirit fills them with life.

Johnny P., you are my hero! Thanks for engaging The UnCommon Journey with your questions. Keep ‘em coming!

But even more importantly, start practicing liturgical prayer. Begin with the Lord’s prayer – in the morning, at meals, in the evening. Use the prayers I presented in my last post.

And keep praying: “Lord, teach me to pray!”

Dr. K

Here Are Some Practical Tools That Will Transform Your Heart

Establishing a Rule of Prayer Will Change Your Life From the Inside-Out

Last week we had a couple stay with us. They were interested in deepening their relationship with God. Each of them came with a hunger to know God more intimately on their journey. We discussed a few ways this could happen. But one way that caught their attention was liturgical prayer. “How can we establish a rhythm of prayer which draws our heart to God?” They asked for practical tools that would help. 

Today, I share some of the prayers that I say daily which help draw my heart to the Father, Son, and Spirit. These are time-tested prayers that have been repeated by Christians for hundreds of years. By saying these words from your heart, you follow the example Jesus gave His disciples when they asked him, “Teach us to pray.” Jesus gave them words to say and a way to say them.

These are not prayers I’ve made up. I don’t trust myself. I merely enter the prayers being offered to God by thousands of others who are saying these same prayers. 

I encourage you to adopt these prayers into a morning “rule of prayer.” Over time, you will find your heart being gently transformed and lovingly suited to the heart of God. Ignore the critics – inner & outer. A prayer liturgy trains your body, soul, and spirit to love God. New and regular routines are how you become a changed person.  

Begin with: 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. 

Then, The Trisagion Prayers:

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us. (3x)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen 

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Your name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (3x)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 

Lord, have mercy. (12x) 

Come, let us worship God our King. 

Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God. 

Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and our God. 

Then, the Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow (1782-1867) (from Francois de Fenelon, 1651-1715)

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will; teach me to pray; pray You Yourself in me. Amen. 

Then, an Intercessory Prayer for Your Children, Relatives and Friends: 

O God, our Heavenly Father, who loves mankind, and who is most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon your servants (name those whom you wish to remember) for whom I humbly pray to You and commit to your gracious care and protection. Be their guide and guardian, O God, in all their endeavors, and lead them in the path of your truth, and draw them nearer to You, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in Your love and fear; doing Your will in all things. Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life; and direct them in the way of salvation, through the merits of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Conclude with: 

At every time and at every hour in heaven and on earth You are worshiped and glorified, O Christ our God, You who are long-suffering, most merciful, most compassionate, who love the just and are merciful to sinners, who call all to salvation through the promise of the good things to come. Accept, O Lord, our entreaties at this hour and guide our lives that we may keep Your commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, correct our thoughts, purify our ideas, and deliver us from all distress, evil, and pain. Surround us with Your holy angels that, protected and guided by their host, we may attain unity of faith and the knowledge of Your unapproachable glory. For blessed are You forever and ever. Amen

Lord, have mercy. (3x)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Sprit, both now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. 

Lastly, copy, paste and print these prayers.

Begin using them as part of your morning time with God. Include them with your Bible reading/meditation and/or your silence. 

If you have questions, struggles, or need clarification please let me know through the comments section. I will read and respond. 

Dr K 

Exploring Worship, Prayer, And The Cult of Self-Expression

Liturgy As A Way To Battle Pride

I was having a conversation with Jim on our back porch a few years ago. The subjects of church and worship came up. We discovered that we were not on the same page. He preferred a free, “spontaneous,” “do what the Spirit tells you to do” service. I preferred a liturgical, “don’t draw attention to yourself,” traditional service. He could not understand why anyone would give up their personal freedom and submit to a liturgy not of their own making.  At the time I could think of only one reason – to learn to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. A liturgical service demands me to battle my pride which constantly urges me to express myself. 

Self-expression is the current calling card of many evangelical Christians. They go to church and pray in order to express themselves. Unknowingly they’ve bought into the perspective of Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – “Express Yourself.”

Express yourself
Express yourself

You don’t never need help from nobody else
All you got to do now

Express yourself

Whatever you do
Do it good
Whatever you do, do, do, Lord, Lord
Do it good, oh yeah

It’s not what you look like
When you’re doin’ what you’re doin’
It’s what you’re doin’ when you’re doin’
What you look like you’re doin’

Express yourself
Express yourself

They’re doin’ it on the moon, yeah, in the jungle too
Everybody on the floor, now
Jumpin’ like a kangaroo
So let the horns do the thing they do, yo

Some people have everything
And other people don’t
But everything don’t mean a thing
If it ain’t the thing you want

Express yourself
Express yourself

Oh, do it, oh, do it

Do it to it
Go on and do it
Yo, do it, give

Express yourself
Express yourself

Do it
Oh Lord
Do it
Yeah

Express yourself
Express yourself
Express yourself
Express yourself

Express yourself
Express yourself
Express yourself

Oh Lord, hey, hey, hey
Lord

Express yourself
Express yourself
Express, ahh, express
Express yourself

Express yourself
Express yourself

Do it at home. Do it at church. Do it when praying. Do it when driving. Do it at work. Do it all the time! 

Be creative. Use your imagination. Get in touch with your emotions. Reinvent the service every week. 

Clap. Sway. Lift your hands. Cry. Dance. Laugh. Be spontaneous. Perform. Jump up and down. Pump your fist. Lay flat on the floor. 

Or Relax. Drink your coffee. Have conversations. Remain passive. Think for yourself. Critique people. Be cool. Act spiritual. Look studious. Stand out. 

Above all, don’t let anyone set limits on you. 

Real and good liturgy squashes it all. It humbles you. It forces you to submit. It teaches you to be quiet and listen. It engages you and invites you to engage it. It frees you to focus on the Triune God. It gives room for the healing of your soul. It unites you with Jesus Christ. It allows the Spirit to transform you on the inside. It causes you to struggle with your passions. And all of this is good! 

Self-expression is nothing compared to self-transformation. Which is more important to you? 

I never did persuade Jim. But my own need to battle my passions – especially my pride that wants to express itself – has helped guide me to experience liturgy as the major shaping tool of my heart.

How about  you? Are you drawn to a liturgical life where you do battle with your passions? Share you thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

Why Some Christians Are Almost Never Destroyed By Sin

Battling The Passions

Down deep, you know that struggling is good for you. It builds up your strength. It helps develop your character. Skills are honed as you struggle to perfect them. You observe the beauty of struggle as a butterfly labors to free itself from the cocoon where once a caterpillar dwelt. St. Paul admits his struggle as he writes about wanting to do good but finding other “forces” at work in himself that cause him to struggle (Romans 6.13-25). You might like to believe that your greatest struggles are outside yourself – political, relational; economic, cultural; God, weather, or people. However, your greatest struggle is with yourself. 

You may not like to admit this. It’s easy to look outside yourself to explain why life is so difficult. But the reality is, you are your own worst enemy. And that enemy, called the self, must be battled. There is no other option. No one can fight this battle for you. You are responsible to do war with your own self and your passions.  

The ancients had a term for these “things” you battle within yourself – passions. They were often good realities within that when left unchecked (encouraged by the evil one) created all levels of problems for people.                                                       struggle

Evagrius Ponticus (4th c.) listed eight passions. These have become the standard for Christians ever since. 

 

  • Gluttony – overeating; eating in secret; eating portions that are too great; desire for delicacies/fancy foods 
  • Unchastity – sexual activity outside marriage between man and woman; vouyerism, looking at someone with sexual desire; homosexuality; sexual innuendo; playfulness; flirtation  
  • Avarice – love of money; desire for wealth; idolatry; covetousness; stealing; desire for security or status through possessions
  • Discontent – sadness; self-pity; fretfulness; exasperation; restlessness 
  • Anger – outbursts; hostility; outrage; resentment; hatred; violence; slow burn; disgruntledness; meanness; bitterness
  • Despondency – anxiety; listlessness; persistent grief
  • Vainglory – boastfulness; vanity; smugness; overconfidence; pretention;  bragging; conceit  
  • Pride – self-absorption; arrogance; disdain; egotism; self-importance; contemptuousness

These passions lie within you. You may be controlled more by one than another. But they are all active to some degree. You can’t eliminate them. But you can enter into the battle against them. And in this struggle, you become a stronger person with a character, will, and heart more in line with Jesus Christ. 

 

A life in Christ provides the only context to successfully battle these passions. However, living more fully in the life of Christ takes purposeful and wise effort. Only with Christ in you and you in Christ, living in synergy, being united as one, do you stand a chance against the passions. Find hope in the reality that this kind of life is available to you. 

 

In my next post, I want to address one particular passion and how it has profoundly impacted prayer and worship. 

 

In the meantime, can you pinpoint a predominant passion from the eight above and begin praying for God’s mercy on you as you struggle with it? I will be praying for you as well. 

 

Dr. K 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Never Too Humble to Recognize Your Own Insignificance

God Matters. You Don't.

Here are some quotes on insignificance. I hope they will encourage your humility today. 🙂

I begin with those who love to comment on the Bible, good or bad…

 

I wish pastors and politicians would remember this…

insignificance.success

Find contentment in your own insignificance knowing that God values you highly.

        insignificance

I don’t usually quote Gandhi, but he nails this one…

                                                      insignificance1

I recently heard a pastor I highly respect say: “I do not matter. God matters.” I think he is right on!

That means, what we say about God, write about God, or think about God doesn’t matter. Yet, we do it anyway. And that’s a good thing.

Dr. K

How Good Are You With A God Who Wants You To Be More Than You Are?

Have You Grown Comfortable With God?

While writing a post on being merciful this week, a poem came to mind I’d heard many years ago. I first heard it quoted by Charles Swindoll in a sermon. I don’t remember things very well. Yet, these words have stuck in my mind for years. There must be a reason. Perhaps it’s because it disturbingly describes my real attitude towards God. It dissects the reality of my superficial commitment to God.   

Three Dollars Worth of God

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

— Wilbur Rees 

I am afraid this describes most of the so-called Christians that surround me.

  • Guys who give more of their heart to the Alabama Crimson Tide than to their prayer life.
  • Women who commit themselves daily to hours of physical exercise, eating right, dressing well, and looking good yet neglect the inner beauty of their heart.
  • Men who sell their souls to their vocation for the sake of success, power, or wealth.
  • Couples who are more devoted to their status in the community than their relationship with God.
  • Millennials who don’t want God messing with their immoral behavior.
  • Elderly who are so set in their ways that they always think they’re right even if God is telling them otherwise.
  • The Christian who loves everybody but dismisses the guy with the sign on the corner or is hostile to those who disagree.

But it’s easy to “bust the chops” of Christians in general. What about you in particular? Does this poem describe you?

Do you want a comfortable relationship with God hoping He won’t invade the space of your kitchen, office, den, or bedroom?

Are you about God making you feel good but not about God making you discipline yourself to godliness?

Do you think the Christian life is a broad way of ease and comfort or a narrow way of suffering and effort?

Do you only hope for a cozy, convenient God or are you OK with an irritating, provoking God?

You and I want to make God in our own image. So, I hope you are discomforted a bit by this post. Not because you aren’t a really good person but because you may be complacent in your Christianity.

Down deep you know you need more than $3 worth of God.

How does this poem strike you? Share below. Share with others. 

Dr. K

To Christians Who Want To Be More Like Jesus Christ

A Struggle to Live Mercy

I don’t really understand a mercy that makes me love my enemies or even people who are different than I am. I am usually repulsed by the unusual. I’m more like Jonah who didn’t want to proclaim a message of repentance to the Ninevites knowing that God, in His mercy, would spare them. I want mercy for myself and for a few select others. But for God to have mercy on everyone…I don’t understand that. I want a God who is good to the righteous and destroys evil. Yet, He makes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust, upon the evil and the good. Then again, I guess that’s a good thing ‘cuz I’m not sure which category I fit into most of the time.

However, I am slowly learning this about God: “the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103.8). And, I’m seeing that I need to be much more like that. But how?

The primary way to experience gracious mercy is to pass it on to others;

to empty oneself of steadfast love only to discover God’s mercy is filling the emptiness. 

So what does practicing mercy look like? According to Jesus, it looks like…

  • loving your enemies
  • doing good to those who hate you
  • blessing those that curse you
  • praying for those who abuse you
  • offering your face to someone who slaps you
  • giving your hat to the one who steals your coat
  • giving to the beggar
  • allowing the one who stole from you to keep what he’s taken
  • treating others like you want to be treated
  • showing kindness to the ungrateful and the evil
  • BEING MERCIFUL AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL

It’s Important to Note

  1. This is personal guidance not instruction for governmental policy. Jesus gives direction for one-on-one interaction not for government policy and practice. 
  2. This is individual instruction not advice for a group. Jesus speaks to your own way of life not instructing committees, organizations, or even churches 
  3. This is practical direction not theoretical information.  These are actions to take not instructions to discuss and debate.  

I gotta’ be honest, I struggle to do these things. This level of lovingkindness goes beyond anything a human being can muster. This kind of gracious mercy comes from God. “Be merciful as your Father is merciful?” Ill start with, be merciful as I can actually be merciful. I strain to show mercy to people I love – Rhonda, my children, my family, and my friends. If I cant be merciful to those who love me how can I even think about being merciful to those who hate me? I’ll start where I can and give to the beggar and start treating others like I want to be treated. 

Im a sorry mess! I need Gods mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Do you struggle to show mercy? Share your experiences below.

Dr. K