Are You Aware Of The Silent Assassin of Your Soul?

I think the most heartbreaking attitude I see from many of my Christian acquaintances is complacency. When it comes to their own soul and spiritual concerns, “It doesn’t matter;” “I don’t care.” They don’t say those exact words. Yet, they are obviously satisfied with themselves and relatively smug in their current spiritual condition. Pastors. Pew sitters. Ministry leaders. Missionaries. Young. Old. None are exempt. Why put out effort when I’m good to go? Some even find a false theology of grace that accommodates their complacency allowing them to dawdle towards eternity. Complacency wipes out a vibrant soul. Are you spiritually complacent?  

Much of my ministry has dealt with such spiritual complacency – in myself and in others. I’m tired of it, actually. 

Complacency can be described as a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements; self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies; unaware or uniformed self-satisfaction; a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation or condition; happy with one’s self and unconcerned. 

Synonyms of complacency include: smugness, self-satisfaction, self-congratulation, self-regard, triumph, and pride. 

Apparently, there are at least two dimensions to being complacent – 

1. Self-satisfaction – the self or ego is central to the problem.

2. Unawareness of dangers or deficiencies – indifference to one’s own sin and negative passions or lack of concern for the subtle impact of the world, flesh, and satan on one’s soul. 

One prophetic passage describes complacency (in this case, on the part of the nation of Israel) that can be applied to all of us: 

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria…Woe for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore, they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. (Amos 6.1, 3-7) 

From Israel’s experience we see that calamity comes to those who –  

1. Settle for being secure and comfortable, happy and entertained, and have an over-abundance food and drink.  

2. Are not grieved over their sinfulness, aware of their potential ruin, and attentive to their propensity to ignore God. 

Senior Demon Screwtape teaches his apprentice-nephew Wormwood on a way to destroy his Christian target, “the Patient:”  

“If you can once get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point,’ you can feel quite happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.” (C.S. Lewis,The Screwtape Letters)

Have you settled for a “moderated religion” or does your heart long to know God more deeply? Are you complacent about the condition of your soul or are you diligent to live in repentance, seeking God with your whole heart?

What do your actions say about your response to complacency? 

Dr. K 

Don’t Be Defeated By These Crafty Enemies of Your Soul

17 Tactics That Keep Your Soul From Flourishing

The enemies of your soul are crafty and subtle. This is proven by your unrecognized complicity. Your strong fortress has already been infiltrated while you relax on the front porch, sipping your sweet tea. Again and again you shoot yourself in your spiritual foot yet remain numb to the pain. You are involved in your own downfall and don’t realize it. However, victory begins when you see what is out to get you. Identifying the enemy’s tactics is a necessary place to begin. 

Examine yourself and see if you are cooperating with any of these tactics of the enemy operating in and around you.  

  1. Preoccupation with matters such as politics, material possessions, sports, food, health, and lodging. 
  2. Possessing thoughts contrary to God’s thoughts. 
  3. Holding beliefs about God which contradict His nature and His Word, Jesus Christ. 
  4. Allowing inner negative passions (anger, gluttony, pride, dejection, vainglory, etc.) to control your heart and thoughts. 
  5. Surrounding yourself with people who are spiritually “safe” and who don’t challenge you to move deeper with God. 
  6. Perceiving struggle as an occasion for problem solving instead of personal transformation. 
  7. Following ministry leaders whose primary concern is your theology, beliefs, morality, or church attendance but not your prayer life. 
  8. Desiring more money, security, comfort, and acceptance by others.
  9. Seeing creation as purely material and utilitarian rather than as the means of God manifesting Himself. 
  10. Being controlled by thoughts about the past and about the future.
  11. Tolerating a church culture that pays little attention to your ongoing relationship with God yet wants you to get involved in ministry. 
  12. Interpreting the Bible for yourself so you can manipulate it to your own satisfaction.
  13. Talking too much and listening too little. 
  14. Immersing yourself in sound, talk, noise, or visual stimuli while ignoring silence and solitude. 
  15. Being satisfied with knowing about God and not being desperate enough to devote yourself to actually knowing God.
  16. Finding a church that suits you instead of a church that challenges your self-centeredness, self-expression, and self-righteousness.  
  17. Developing your own spiritual formation strategy rather than learning obedience through the time-tested, simple practices of the Church and her saints. 

Remember the man who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He had done what he thought was necessary. Yet, Jesus challenged him to address one enemy of his soul – his preoccupation with his wealth. Sadly, he was unwilling to do what Jesus said. Don’t be like him. Seriously consider what tactic(s) you are allowing to keep your soul from flourishing. 

You know how I can identify these so readily? I’ve personally wrestled with each one of them. I’m really identifying the enemies of my own soul.

Which of these are active in your life? Which one is most prevalent? Having identified it, begin battling the enemy in prayer. Ask God what He would have you do in light of this issue, pleading for His mercy in it. 

Share any thoughts about this below. 

Dr. K 

Here Are Helpful Thoughts To All-Day Communion With God From Basil of Caesarea

Pray Without Ceasing - Note the Importance of Giving Thanks

Giving ThanksFrom St. Basil the Great (330-379) 

As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.”

 — St. Basil the Great, from Homily V. In Martyrem Julittam, quoted in the Prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume 8

What Does A “Successful” Relationship With God Look Like? The Answers May Surprise You.

Three Relationship Markers From Jesus

Success can be a nebulous concept when connected to our relationship with God. How can you determine if your relationship with God is actually successful? What measurement can be used? Is it a feeling of satisfaction that comes over you affirming that all is good with God? Can you say you relate to God successfully because you are at peace, experience joy, believe you’re going to heaven, know your sins are forgiven, are fully convinced that you’re His child, or feel love for Him? 

I’m not advanced enough spiritually to set out a standard of what a successful relationship with God looks like. I struggle daily to even experience Him at a beginner’s level. I am no expert. But there is one expert who knows exactly what it is to have a successful relationship with God. He can help us on the journey…if we can handle it. 

So, here’s what Jesus, God in the flesh who is in perfect relationship with the Father, has to say about relating to God successfully: 

1. A Successful Relationship with God is Costly 

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, will find it.”  Matthew 16.24, Mark 8.34, Luke 9.23

To have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ means ongoing denial, death (to ego/self), leaving everything to follow Jesus, and losing your life for Jesus’ sake. This is why godly martyrs are venerated and monastics admired. They have taken Jesus seriously while the rest of us struggle to relate with God because we enjoy ease and comfort. We’d rather have a lovey-dovey relationship, redefining the relationship in psychological and emotional terms. Jesus did not do this. If your relationship with God is not costing you something everyday, it cannot be “successful.” 

2. A Successful Relationship with God is Person to Person 

“Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11.28-29

To have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ means a constant coming to Jesus involving entry into His union with the Father and learning gentle humility. The outcome of rest is not ours to control but Jesus’ to give. Our role in the relationship is a never ending coming, taking, and learning from Jesus. This is a perpetual relationship established with the One Person in terms that are real. Is this one-on-one relationship with Jesus an ongoing reality for you everyday? 

3. A Successful Relationship with God Involves a Meal 

Then there is the most offensive means to a successful relationship with God…

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead, He who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6.53-58

Many of Jesus’ disciples left Him never to return when they heard these words. Their communion with Jesus ended because they were unable to accept this teaching and reality. To abide in Christ – have an dynamic, intimate relationship with – means to eat His flesh and drink His blood. This is a difficult reality for many to swallow (sorry about the pun!?!). Yet, it is something that needs to be seriously considered when talking about a successful relationship with God. Communion with God comes in the form of bread and drink. The meal is Jesus Christ. 

So, how “successful” is your relationship with God? After dealing with these truths for a while today, I can see that my relationship is in need of some serious attention.

How about you? How is your relationship with God looking? Take some time right now to examine what it looks like. Does it include these three elements? 

Dr. K 

Exploring The Curse of Success

Is Success a Disease Subtly Infecting Your Life?

Success has a subtle way of working into our life…and then sabotaging it. And, when it becomes the measure of all things spiritual, it can be devastating. In our quest to manage all things, we begin to believe we can determine outcomes which satisfy us. This, of course, presumes that we know what is best. Success ravages our desire to simply do what God wills. 

I don’t know that I’d say it as strongly as William James does. 

The moral flabbiness born of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid interpretation put on the word success – is our national disease. (William James to H.G. Wells, Sept. 11, 1906) 

But, then again, maybe he knows better than we do what success does to us. 

Is This Success? 

Success can be defined as: “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. The attainment of popularity or profit. A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.” 

Success clouds reality when applied to ministry, family life, and spiritual life. 

  • Is the Billy Graham crusade successful because 120,000 people showed up and 5,000 souls were “saved?”
  • Is Crossroads Church successful because it boasts 12 ministries to a diverse population, has a cutting edge website, delivers expository sermons over the radio, and supports 75 missionaries mainly in the 10/40 window? 
  • Can Marv and Carol Johnson claim success because all five of their children flourished in homeschool, never do drugs, are still virgins, have good friends, look good, and go to church? 
  • Do you have a successful relationship with God if you pray 15 minutes a day, read your Bible daily, live the 10 commandments, attend church weekly, journal daily, read Tim Keller/Henri Nouwen/The Philokalia, and listen to Christian radio? 

If those numbers and aims are the standards by which you measure success, then yes, you are a success. Congratulations. 

But are you really? It all depends on the standard by which you measure. And that highlights one of the many problems success carries. Who sets the “standard?” What is a good standard? Does the standard actually measure success? 

There seems to be obvious success in certain arenas. You reach your goal of paying off $25,000 worth of debt. But if reaching that goal cost you a couple broken relationships, was it really a success?  

Is This Success? 

Success is that you are persevering in rearing the children you have. Success is being faithful in the ministry and work God’s given you. Success is journeying with God one step at a time. Success is loving your spouse. Success is living as fully as possible in Christ. Success is dealing well with what is in front of you. 

Success is doing God’s will whatever may be the outcome. 

Outcomes are not the sole measure of success. You really don’t know what God is up to even in the failures and heartaches; even in the accomplishments and prosperity. Success may be death or martyrdom. Success may look like failure. Yes, failure may be a type of success. Now that’s wacky!

It seems that success is impossible to measure. 

In my next post, I want to explore the idea of success in our relationship with God. Join me next time. 

How has “success” messed with your understanding of life, family, and God? Share below. 

Dr. K

 

A Great Way To Start Your Day

Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You

How is your day going so far? Most of you get my posts about mid-day. But whether you receive them in the morning or at noon, you’ve still lived some of your life already today. So, how ya’ doin’? To what have you given yourself in the first hours of your day? Food? TV News? Coffee? Sports? (After all, it is March Madness) Work? Children? Pets? Exercise? God? How does your “Christian” morning differ from the vast number of non-Christian mornings out there? I know some “Christians” whose first word of the day come from Fox News not from the Word, Jesus Christ. What did Jesus actually mean when He taught us to “seek first” His Kingdom and righteousness? What you do with the first minutes of your day say much about your spiritual life and relationship with God. 

Would you be interested in a quiet and simple start to your day? What would it take for that to happen? It would be different of each of you. For some, you’d need to awake before the children awake. For others, you’d have to break the habit of inviting noise into your morning. Others would need to find a morning rhythm that included being with God. It is possible to change your morning habits into patterns of life-giving routines that set the pace for your whole day.

I really can’t think of any legitimate excuse that prevents you from showing up in the morning to be with God. If you want to badly enough, you’ll do it. If it matters to you enough, you’ll figure out a way to make it happen. If you have issues with God, the best way to deal with them is to spend time with Him talking about it. 

You’ll discover that God is not the problem. He faithfully waits. He loves to spend time with His children. He’s not the issue.

In fact, God is faithful, by whom you were called into the communion of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1.9). You are called to be in communion with the Trinity. You are called to live in union with the Father, Son, and Spirit. You are called to be one with the Triune God (John 17.20-16). It is what Jesus prayed for. 

You are called to commune with the Father and the Spirit as Jesus does. What you do with your mornings is an indication of your willingness to answer His call.

This time with God is crucial due to three realities that come with your calling:

1. The enablement of the Holy Spirit. You are really guided and empowered by the life of the Spirit within as you die to yourself. 

2. The life of Jesus Christ in you. You possess the life of Jesus and live that life as you participate in the life of Jesus.  

3. The grace and other virtues of the Trinity flowing within you. These are God’s uncreated energies working in you as you participate in them.  

It’s simple because all you need is provided for you. Difficulty comes into play when you don’t take advantage of what’s been provided. 

You see, this journey of living out your calling is a synergistic process – “syn” = with, “ergo” = work. God works in you; you work in God. He and you do this together with one another. He doesn’t do all the work and you passively do nothing. Nor do you work hard apart from him. God and you work together like a hand in a glove. 

It couldn’t be more simple. Yet it is not easy. 

At minimum, you’ve got to wake up and show up. God doesn’t force Himself on you. You draw near to Him and He draws near to you (James 4.8). 

Giving yourself to God in the morning is a prime opportunity to enter into all He has for you and to live in it all day long. 

And there’s no better time to start than this morning…or tomorrow morning. 

How are you spending your first minutes of the morning? How are you able to enter into what God has provided for you? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

Exploring An Ordinary God Who Is In Your Ordinary Life

Seek God in the Ordinary Not Just the Extra-Ordinary

In our hospitality ministry, we usually don’t know much about who’s going to walk through our doors. But we do know that they’ll be ordinary people. All the people we meet are ordinary people. That’s because all people are ordinary. You included. And me. And God. 

 

The definition of “ordinary” includes the ideas of something regular, customary or usual; normal; exercising authority by virtue of office not by delegation. 

Related to ordinary is the word, “ordinance” which is an authoritative law, order, or rule; something believed to have been ordained, as by a deity or destiny. 

When these concepts are linked, you discover that an “ordinary” life is one ruled by God, the Ultimate Authority. In reality, you are ordained. The life you live is ordained. In other words, all of your life – the usual, the ordinary, the customary, the regular – is where God is. 

He is not simply in the supernatural or the extra-ordinary. He may be. He may not be. The spectacular can be produced by many. Our minds can play tricks on us. We often want something that is not necessary for our own spiritual good. 

Jesus experienced the ordinary throughout His entire life. Being born in obscurity, growing up relatively unknown for 30 years, walking with His disciples in everyday Jewish life, the vast majority of His earthly existence was in the ordinary. Even the occasional “miracle” was ordinary to Him. That’s just how He lived. He even took ordinary bread and wine and transformed it into His body and blood. Ordinary stuff. 

God normally is in the normal. He is usually in the usual. He is regularly in the regular. He is ordinarily in the ordinary. You are ordained to live an ordinary life where God is. 

This includes the conversations with your children and the arguments with your spouse. In your driving, eating, sleeping, playing, and working, there God is. In the pain, struggles, heartaches, brokenness, and tragedies, God is there. In the good, beautiful, winsome, fresh, joyful, and peaceful, God is there. At birth and at death, God is there. He lives in your ordinary life. 

Since God is in the ordinary, every ordinary person you meet and know has been ordained by God to be in your life at that moment. You’d better pay attention. God is there. Don’t miss him. 

Since God is in the ordinary, you are surrounded by good, beauty, and so much that is worthy of thanks. 

Since God is in the ordinary, every second of your life is transformed into a time to commune, worship, adore, and give thanks. 

God doesn’t simply allow stuff, He is in the stuff. 

He is an Ordinary God living in your ordinary life.

What you and I need is a heart to see Him there.  

Got any ordinary thoughts about this? Any ordinary story? Share below…

Dr. K

Some Of You Have Been Given A Unique Gift Of Time. Take Advantage Of It.

A Brief Reflection on The Spiritual Benefit of Having An Empty Nest & Being Retired

Nancy tearfully watches Johnny, her last child, head off to college. She will no longer be responsible to scramble his eggs or wash his favorite jeans or help him clean “the disaster” called his bedroom. She won’t be devoting almost every weekend watching him play soccer. What will she do with a free hour or two a day and less hectic weekends? Will she fill them with more activity? Or will she do what she’s always wanted  – to begin to experience a daily routine filled with meaningful times with God and thoughtful moments with others – what Eugene Peterson paraphrased, “the unforced rhythms of grace?” 

As Tom anticipates retirement next month, he looks forward to leisurely days to fish, golf, hunt, and travel. That’s it. It’s too bad that he never thinks about having more time to connect with God somehow. If he’s going to have more time for himself, why not consider giving himself more time to be with God? Why can’t God be a significant part of his retirement plans? 

This post is primarily for empty nesters and/or retired persons who find themselves with more freedom to manage their own time. How are you experiencing this gift of time at this point in your life? Are you cramming it full of activity because the end is near and you need to leave a legacy? Or are you preparing your life for eternity, learning to live as if you’re already there? 

All Christians have the opportunity to intentionally pursue God with their whole heart. Yet those with no children at home and those without a “9-to-5” are given the gift of time unique to their season of life.   

There are spiritual advantages to being in these seasons of life:

  • You have more time to give to communing with God.                                                                      
  • You have more control over your priorities.
  • You can focus your efforts on the issues that matter for eternity.

You can more fully give yourself to knowing God, to caring for your soul, and to intentionally living into and out of your relationship with God.  

Compared to being under the time constraints of your children’s schedules or the demands of your employer, you can navigate your spiritual life differently.

Do you have room in your life for more time to be with God? Take advantage of it. You’ve been given the gift of this season of life. Accept it. Use it to your spiritual advantage. 

Don’t be like many empty nesters who make their new life about themselves. Make your new life about God.

Don’t be like many retired people who waste their remaining days on this earth on temporal things instead of preparing their hearts for eternity. 

It seems to me, those in these situations have fewer excuses to not give more time to prayer, communion with God, stillness and solitude.  

Tell me in the comment section where I’m off base. I have a limited perspective, so I may be missing something. 

God has given you the gift of this day. How are you using it to better know God and care for your soul? 

Dr. K

Finding Motivation To Live A Real-Life, Simple Faith

Enoch Walked With God

40 years ago I “met” Enoch. Today, I was reintroduced. It brought laughter to my mouth and tears to my eyes. I didn’t know it then but I know it now…I desperately want to be Enoch. Enoch personifies in concrete and simple terms what it means to know God. To seek God in a real-life, simple faith-relationship is what life is about. There’s an insatiable hunger to see God alive in the nitty-gritty stuff of life. Screw mysticism. Forget tingly feelings. God talk be damned. “Blah… blah…blah…God…blah…blah…Jesus…blah…Bible…blah…blah…theology…blah…blah…blah.” You want to experience a real God who acts in real life helping you deal with real issues. 

Become a friend of Enoch. His life with God was real simple.

From Genesis 5, we know this about Enoch –

1. He walked with God and pleased Him – Enoch gives us an example of one who lived in simple communion with God. Amazingly, he had no Bible, no “on-fire” church, no “correct” doctrinal statement, no vibrant small group, no clever slogans, no relevant books, no praise music, and no formal theological education. Yet, he communed with God in everyday life – even in the midst of having lots of children while making a living somehow. In this, he and God walked together. 

2. He lived 365 years – Is “365” significant? Since this is the number of days in a year, are we being taught that a day-by-day, 365 days a year relationship with God can be lived? 

3. He had many children – He was the great-grandfather of righteous Noah. In Genesis 5, Enoch is listed as the seventh generation from Adam. He stands out from the rest due to his walk with God and translation from this earth without dying. That kind of life had to be a huge influence on Methuselah, then Lamech, then Noah.  

4. He was taken by God – He did not die. Can you imagine? He was out in the work shop tinkering with some projects. Then he disappeared, never to be seen again. No one could find him. “God took him.” What kind of intimate relationship would there have to be for God Himself to easily escort Enoch from this earth? I can imagine him taking one terrestrial step towards his work bench and the next onto the heavenly stratosphere of eternity. Only his location changed. All else remained the same. 

From Hebrews 11.5 you learn of Enoch’s faith. As an example of faith, he knew two simple realities: 

1. God exists. This was not just an intellectual idea he had about God. There was no way to know God like that in his time. There were no philosophical or scientific arguments for the existence of God he could read about. He knew God existed because he was experiencing the reality of God in his everyday life. God’s existence was not a theory or concept. He knew God as he experienced the birth of his children, as he lived in nature, as he saw the sun rise and set, as he ate with his family, as he interacted with people or as he quietly observed the stars.

Truth is, this is how you and I know God exists, as well. Conventionally, modern Christianity wants you to primarily find God through books and arguments that appeal to your intellect. But, classical Christianity teaches that God is known experientially. It’s always been this way. 

2. God rewards those who seek Him. Enoch’s reward was that he had the pleasure of God’s company 24/7. Is there any greater reward? He was also rewarded by not succumbing to death. We are not sure where he was “taken” but we know he did not die. Fascinating.

Enoch’s example is motivation to seek God with all you have. The potential for great reward is there. Do you hold back?

Faith means seeking God whom you cannot see physically (though Jesus shows God) though you know He exists.  

Your reward could be summarized as:

1. Communion with God on earth

2. Communion with God without the fear of death

3. Communion with God for eternity 

How are you seeking God in simple faith? How does the reward of “walking with God” affect you? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K