Words To The Wise For Your Journey to Godliness

Frustrations, Training, and Godlikeness

When it comes to “godliness” most Christians come up short. Though the word “godly” is only mentioned about 25 times, the whole Bible is a book about godliness. Unfortunately, most evangelical commentators want to reduce its meaning to something like “devotion to God.” I believe its more like “Godlikeness.” For example, “friendliness” is more than a devotion to a friend. It’s being a friend. “Laziness” is not a devotion to something lazy. It’s being lazy. Both words describe a characteristic of life. It’s who they are not just what they do. In fact, they act a certain way out of who they are. Godliness is the characteristic of a person who is like God. 

My journey towards godliness has been hindered by two mistaken beliefs: 

  1. That will-power is enough. I had a college professor, 6 foot 6 inches with a resonating deep voice, who often repeated this phrase: “You are spiritually where you want to be.” He may have been taking about desire. But I interpreted his saying as emphasizing the will – “You are spiritually where you will to be.” So for years I tried to will myself to spiritual growth like The Little Engine That Could – “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” 
  2. That ministry is the answer. I associated serving God with knowing God. Being active and serving is good. But it is no substitute for a vital, experiential relationship with God. In fact, it can be the factor that hinders the journey. Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), the popular devotional author writes, “We slander God by our very eagerness to work for Him without knowing Him. Our greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.”  

Acting on these beliefs only led me to frustration. I needed to learn to walk a journey of participation in the life of God in faith, grace, and…effort. This is the path to godliness. 

Tom Landry, one of the best coaches football has ever seen, said, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” Something similar could be said about St. Paul’s instruction to “train yourself to godliness.” To become godly you need to engage in practices you may not want to do. But eventually, these practices become the enjoyable means to godliness. 

Exercise is Necessary 

The Church for centuries has encouraged its people to engage in ascetical practices that actually help them become more and more like God. These practices are not for the purpose of punishing the body. They are engaged for a couple reasons: 

  • To manage the fleshly passions, directing them to a positive end.
  • To open the heart to know God and experience His life, love, and light. 

It’s fascinating that many so-called Christians spend thousands of dollars and hours focused on their physical well-being while spending little or nothing on their spiritual well-being. These dear folks are barely Christians in the full sense of the word let alone walking the journey to be like God.  

But this is not you. You’re reading this because something inside you desires to know God and become more like Him. You’re simply looking for good ways to have that happen. You recognize that physical exercise is good as far as it goes. But, exercising yourself to godliness is good for this life and all eternity. You know that you don’t drift into godliness. You know that you must do something about it in the grace of God. 

Training is Good

The word translated “training” that St. Paul uses in 1 Timothy 4.7, is the word from which we get our word “gymnasium” – in modern usage, “gym.” “I’m going to the gym” usually means I’m going to work out, exercise, or engage in some activity that will benefit me physically. You know what a “gym” class at school means. Kids practice or play basketball or volleyball, train or wrestle in a gym. A gymnast works hard on various apparatus and floor exercises to hone his or her skills. Usually this “training” involves a coach, coaching, and a team that helps in the training.

Much effort goes into this physical training. Similarly, much effort needs to go into your spiritual training. Going to church, sitting in a pew, listening to sermons, and singing a few songs is not going to do it. Your church is not a gymnasium though it could be. You need to “exercise yourself for godliness” in ways that make all of life a gymnasium. stupidity1

In my next post, I will present a few simple means you can practice to help you become more godly. These are ancient practices taught by the Church for hundreds of years. They are not your usual practices. But as the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results.” 

How are you doing on your journey towards godliness? Moving forward? Stuck? In the ditch? Lost? Enjoying the journey? Are you taking time to exercise along the way? 

Dr. K 

The Great Need of Christians For Spiritual Fathers

Compared to Teachers, They are Rare

Finding a spiritual father has been a life-long goal of mine. One is not easy to find. They hide in solitude and silence. They are simple and unconcerned about publicity. They are among us yet we’re blind to their presence. I’ll not give up my search. However, I may need to adjust my expectations.  

My own biological father, Joel Kettenring, helped me know God by his example and by his preaching. He possessed a  great heart for God and a wholehearted dedication to serving Him. He probably had a lot more to offer me spiritually than I was looking for at the time. Yet, I was deeply influenced by his obvious desire to know God more deeply.

Perhaps his example stirred in me a desire for a “spiritual father” – a man whose ongoing experience of God is deeply transforming his life; a man being humbled as he struggles to die to self and live in Christ.  

Thankfully, I’ve had many fatherly men in my life. They were influential at a particular time moving me along in my journey to the Father. Pastor Joe and Pastor Bill, Drs. Wayne, Klaus, Dallas, and Tom were instrumental in showing me a meaning of Father whether as a shepherd, teacher, or unofficial mentor. I am eternally grateful that they showed me what a true father is and what he is not. 

I’ve learned two realities on this father-journey: 

  1. Only God the Father can be the father my heart longs for.
  2. The journey is about becoming a spiritual father as much as finding a spiritual father (even though I know I need one to become one). 

Apostle Paul 

The Apostle knew the crucial significance of a spiritual father in the life of the Christian. We need instructors and teachers. But our greater need is for fathers who live authentic Christian lives worth imitating. They are much more rare, harder to find, easy to miss. 

St. Paul writes (I Corinthians 4.15-16) – For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers…Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (in other letters he writes something similar – 1 Cor. 11.1 Imitate me as I imitate Christ, Phil 3.17, 1 These 1.6, 2 Theses 3.9)) 

True spiritual fathers have the credibility to say, “Imitate me” since they have the genuine life in Christ to back it up. 

Teachers 

Today we have a myriad (Gr. murious) of instructors (NKJV –  “ten thousand;” innumerable). Everywhere you turn, there are instructors. In church you have pastors, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, elders or deacons. In schools there are professors, researchers, and teachers. There are countless books by instructors. Thousands of websites by writers. Hundreds of conferences loaded with speakers. Friends with advice. Well-meaning relatives who preach their opinions. People communicating through movies, books, brochures, CDs, radio podcasts, satellite radio, seminars, webinars, ebooks, and bumper stickers. Instructors are a dime a dozen. 

We have more than enough “paidogogos” (Gr.) – meaning: trainers, instructors, teachers, guides, guardians, tutors.  

These instructors pass on information. They appeal to the intellect. They want you to think better, make informed judgments, stimulate your brain, refine your reasoning, become smarter, grasp arguments, comprehend ideas, and sharpen your reasoning. They seek to persuade with logic and emotion. 

They don’t necessarily need to follow their own teaching. The idea is: as long as the information is good, they are good. 

Fathers 

Fathers may want all this for you, too. But they understand the real necessity to live what they teach so much so that they hesitate to teach truth unless they are living it. They know God relationally and experientially. They are more about experiencing life in Christ than trying to analyze and explain it. 

This kind of “spiritual” father can truly have authority and exercise responsibility because he/she lives God’s life – dying to self; repenting of wrongdoing; battling sin, flesh, the world, and satan; humbly submitting to a higher authority, and actually participating in God’s will. 

Above all, these spiritual fathers model life in Christ. They are real-life examples of living death, purposeful struggle, moment-by-moment communion with God, bold humility, loving kindness, joyful peace, faithful long-suffering, true wisdom, and beautiful goodness. They manifest the qualities of gentleness, humility, patience, compassion, discernment, and love. 

They are rare indeed. 

They are not interested in simply passing on information. They want to BE the information they pass on. 

Their goal? Again, we turn to the Apostle Paul: My little children, of whom I travail in birth until Christ be formed in you  (Galatians 4.19).

A true spiritual father wants nothing more than to see Jesus Christ in his children. Therefore, he wants nothing more than to see Jesus Christ in his/her own life. 

Today

Let’s be honest. We have plenty of Christian leaders who want something different than this. They’re devoted to building or maintaining their own little kingdoms (church, school, organization, online platform) and finding people to follow them into it. They’re dedicated to persuading people to a certain theological way of thinking. They’re committed to helping others become better people, changing the world to become a better place, or raising family members to be good. And they do this by instruction. 

Rare is the leader who, out of their own Christlikeness, influences others in becoming like Jesus as they follow their example.  

What we have are scores of teachers who, on occasion, act like fathers. What we need are fathers who, on occasion, act like teachers. 

Let’s make this really practical for a second. A big mistake often made by fathers to their children is to focus on instructing them rather than being a father to them. I write from personal experience. Ugh! It’s much easier to tell our children what to do, or demand it of them, than guide them gently, lovingly, and patiently. Our heavenly Father relates to us as a Father who lovingly guides by example and patience. We need to do the same. If you’ve blown it in the past with your children, there’s no better time to become more fatherly than now. Ask their forgiveness for being so demanding and begin building a Christ-like relationship with them as you become more like Christ. 

I’m confident there are true spiritual fathers out there. They’re hidden in their humility and total devotion to Jesus and His ways. They are not popular or even well known. 

I’m also confident I’m not close to being one. I’m far too worldly, self-absorbed, judgmental, and unloving to qualify. To find one, I look through a window not into a mirror. 

I”d love for us all to find a spiritual father here on earth. Perhaps, while we’re searching, we can seek to imitate Jesus Christ and the Apostles. 

Are you up to the challenge? Few are. I hope you are an exception. 

Share your thoughts about spiritual fatherhood below. 

Dr. K 

An Invitation to Real Apostolic-Like Living

The Challenge of 1 Corinthians 4.9-16

From some corners of evangelical Christianity come the cries for apostolic ministry – ministries of authority, physical healing, signs, words of knowledge, prophesy, and the “supernatural.” The desire is for apostolic results. But, what about the apostolic kind of life that goes with it? These results did not come through empty vessels but through men shaped by asceticism, hardship, resistance, and prayer. A modern apostle might say, “It doesn’t matter. The supernatural is God’s work. It matters little how I live or who I am.” The Apostle Paul would disagree.

In 1 Corinthians 4.9-16, the Apostle Paul, from first hand experience, describes what being an apostle looks like: 

  • last of all
  • sentenced to death
  • a spectacle to the world, angels and others
  • a fool for Christ’s sake
  • weak
  • held in disrepute
  • hungry and thirsty
  • poorly dressed
  • beaten
  • homeless
  • involved in manual labor
  • reviled yet blesses
  • persecuted yet endures
  • slandered yet speaks well of the slanderers
  • the scum of the world
  • rejected like garbage

Contrast this with the modern-day “apostle,” who is trying hard to be:

  • relevant
  • distinguished
  • privileged
  • popular
  • successful
  • influential
  • diplomatic
  • well-liked
  • recognized
  • powerful
  • comfortable

Paul’s description could easily be dismissed as only applying to first century apostles. If only he had not gone on to say,

 I admonish you because you have countless guides who want to tell you how to live but not many fathers who are actual examples of how to live. That’s why I say, “live as I live; imitate me.”

You and I are not apostles. But we are to become apostle-like Christians as Paul describes. This is at the core of our journey with Jesus Christ and his apostles.

It is a journey to nothingness.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle writes, “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies”  (4.10). Nothingness is the place we experience everything good. 

It is only in dying that we experience real life.

Do you know much about the Apostles? Unfortunately, I don’t. 

Today, let’s find out more about these men who changed the world in their living and in their dying.  

Spoiler alert: with one exception, they all died as martyrs. How did they live? How did they die? Let’s do some research. Then, let’s do some self-examination in light of what we find. 

Share below a gem that you discover and how it impacts you. And share this post with others. 

Dr. K

Trying to Help Those Who Don’t Want Help

A Brief Discourse on Helping

People who have a heart for people desire to help them. Yet, people you care about are not always receptive to your help. What do you do then? When it comes to helping others, it takes two to tango.

Seeking help is scary and sometimes difficult. To admit you have a problem along with the prospect of personal change often keeps you from seeking help. You’re blinded by shame, pride, fear, and anger. Therefore, you can’t clearly see reality or your true self.

There’s the story of the two young fish swimming along. They happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys! How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on for a bit. Eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”

The truth can be right in front of us but we can’t – or choose not to – see it. It’s easy to become blinded to the realities of who we are and what’s around us – like the fish clueless about the water.

Help means someone “invades” our private space challenging us to rearrange some things, get rid of the junk, clean out our closets, and stop messing up our lives.

It’s easy to see how seeking help is rarely easy.

Offering Help

According to my 10 pound New Oxford American Dictionary, “help” means to: 1) “make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering one’s services or financial or material aid; improve (a situation or problem); be of benefit to; assist (someone) to move in a specified direction; assist someone to put on or take off (a garment); relieve the symptoms of (an ailment); 2) to serve someone with (food or drink); to take something without permission; 3) an appeal for urgent assistance

Basically help is assistance. We don’t like to see people in pain. We have resources they need. We offer the resources.

Unfortunately, this kind of assistance may be unwelcome, unappreciated, faulty, or misunderstood,

It Takes Two to Tango 

First, there’s the “help-er” who seeks to ease someone in a difficulty PLUS the “help-ee” who receives the help and benefits from the help.

Help is a two-person dance. Sure, you can try to help yourself on your own, but rarely with any level of success. You’ll keep tripping over your own clumsy feet. The best way to help yourself is to accept the beneficial help from others who have insight and experience related to your situation.

What do you do, then, when your help is not wanted? Here are five suggestions:

1. Press forward anyway no matter the consequences. Force your help on them. This reminds me of an intervention. I’ve only heard stories of this method’s success. The few times I’ve been involved in something like this, it failed. The human will plays a significant part in change. As Benjamin Franklin taught: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

2. Pull back and find another way to persuade. When done with genuine sensitivity, love and kindness, this method is effective.

An Aesop’s fable illustrates:

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

“Kindness effects more than severity.”

However, there are human beings that will use this method to manipulate people. Instead of a direct assault, they’ve learned the art of “putting on airs,” treating people nicely, so they can get their way.

Real help doesn’t manipulate people. Discover options that will make a difference.

3. Wash your hands of it. You care for the person by letting them carry on blinded by their own insanity. This seems to be what the father of the prodigal son did. It’s what God does to some of his creatures driven by sin. It seems a crazy way to love. But we’re not God.

There are some people whom you cannot rescue. It’s a hard reality to admit. You cannot help every individual no matter how much you try.

4. Pray for God to help while waiting to participate (or not) in that help. As a Christian, this is a great option. Commit the person to God’s mercy constantly. Then, seek God wholeheartedly as you wait on Him to direct your desire to help.

5. Most importantly, be an example of a person being transformed by the mercy and grace of God. The trouble this person is having may be God’s way of changing YOU and your ability to love others. Your ability to help flows from who you are.

Insight from the Psalmist

Read how God helps those in need:

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob; whose hope is in the Lord his God….The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. (Psalm 146.5-9)

  • The person who looks to God for help will usually be open to receive help from others. He/She has some idea of God’s ability to assist.
  • The person who doesn’t trust God for help may struggle with trusting others who offer help. That kind of person may find God assisting them to ruin.
  • With God there is always hope and help. Yet, we are responsible to learn to trust Him and His help. We can just as easily  rely on ourselves.

Insight from Psychology 

Victoria Maxwell who writes on the Psychology Today site, reminds us of these steps in helping those who don’t want help:

  1. Remember the journey to accept there is a problem to deal with is theirs alone. We can offer genuine help and listen with an open and compassionate heart. But, we are not responsible for their health and happiness. Let go.
  2. Ask your loved one to humor you and go to see someone who can help. Offer to go together.
  3. Build trust and rapport. If your trying to help creates more frustration and anger, do not get frustrated or angry in return. This is easier said than done. Do your best to keep communication open no matter how difficult it becomes.
  4. Evaluate whether you are really the best person to talk to your loved one right now. This may really be true of parents toward their adult children. Another person who is wise and loves people, may be the better option to meet their need.

When Help may not Helpful

  • When help is given only to correct a perceived wrong. Care for the individual is not important. The only issue is fixing the problem.
  • When help comes from a less-than-credible person or someone not respected; an unreliable source. Of course, the one needing help determines this. If they want to dismiss a person as untrustworthy, then they’ll miss the help they need.
  • When help comes from a haughty, proud person. This person may be more interested in looking good than actually helping.
  • When help creates more problems. For example, the person becomes even more dependent on the aid of others.

Making it Personal 

A major frustration of ministry is directing our desire to help people towards those who don’t see their need for help. People who are complacent or self-satisfied, don’t see their need for help. Unfortunately, this describes most people who sit in church pews Sunday after Sunday.

It also describes most church and ministry leaders. Their problem is more ego-related than complacency. Their expertise, training, position, or charisma exempt them from needing assistance. This is a dangerous place to be.

Though life always includes a good dose of struggle (it’s designed that way), we make it more difficult on ourselves when we try to go it alone. Truth is, we don’t have what it takes to make life “work.” We need help.

Also recognize that help is available to you. Ask God for help and see where that takes you. Wisely receive the help that’s offered and be open to benefit from it.

Lastly, become a person who genuinely helps others in kindness and love. Draw close to the Helper of us all and learn from Him. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all know what help is and how to do it. Follow their lead and heart.

Share a story of help below or share something you’re taking away from this post. 

Dr. K

 

Why Christian Introverts Ought to be Honored Not Denounced

12 Benefits of Being a Christian Introvert

Is how we function as Christians determined by our personality? Perhaps. Adam McHugh, pastor and author of Introverts in the Church, observes: “The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness and extroversion. The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people. It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out. And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension. It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’ld like.’ It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.’” The purpose of this post is to let all introverts, Christians in particular, know that God is pleased with you. Introversion needs to be celebrated. 

Extrovert Evangelicalism

Though studies by psychologists and sociologists cite findings that introverts comprise 30 – 50% of the general population, the evangelical church is definitely biased towards the extrovert. The larger culture of extroversion, especially in America, has infiltrated the church. Charismatic, articulate, innovative, energetic, and expressive Christians and leaders are lauded as the best examples of being a Christian. A good Christian is an extrovert Christian. 

I have been made to feel “less-than” because I’m an introvert. I’m supposed to be someone else. In the pastorate, this was a tough assignment. I often felt like a square peg in a round hole. I played the extrovert part well. But as far as my personality went, I was living a double life. I know there are thousands of introverted Christians who feel the same way. Thriving in an extroverted evangelicalism is difficult. 

Pastor Eugene Peterson observes, “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.” Extroverts reign. 

McHugh sees an even more troublesome issue.

Many evangelical [mega]churches, in their hope to create comfortable environments for seekers, have stripped their sanctuaries and worship services of any sense of mystery and the sacred. Their fast moving, high production events may entertain us and their avid employment of modern technology may dazzle us, but many times, they cannot help us hear the still, small voice of God. (Introverts in the Church, p 27)  

No church is exempt. There’s a little Baptist church on the country road we drive everyday. Currently its sign reads: “The Gospel begins with GO.” The thought is, “To accept Jesus Christ means lots of activity.” It’s a misleading message in light of Jesus’ gospel message to “come.” 

Evangelicalism has always had this problem. You’re expected to enthusiastically express your devotion to Jesus by your emotions, passionate singing, confident sharing, public demonstrations of worship with beaming faces, tears, or bodily movement and vocal expressions. “Really good” services are fast moving, dazzling, innovative, stimulating, and emotionally moving. At the center of most mega-churches and large Christian organizations is a larger-than-life, Charismatic person famous for something he or she does well.

Extroverts thrive in these settings. Introverts tolerate them or work hard to be accepted in them usually suffering silently. Often, they are made to feel less Christian because they are not as emotional or expressive. 

Introvert Christianity

There seem to be many introverts whose lives are recorded in scripture – Moses the stutterer, David the shepherd and king, Timothy the timid, virgin Mary the ponderer, Zacheus the shy, Mary the silent at Jesus’ feet, or even most of the apostles. 

Church history is filled with thousands of men and women, contemplative and solitary, who are held in high esteem for their piety and impact on society. They are usually the de facto and often the official leaders of the church due to their holiness, humility, and experiential knowledge of God. They are often courageous and happy martyrs. They sometimes fight heretics tooth and nail. Theirs is a robust faith forged in solitary struggle and tenacious humility.  

Introvert Stereotypes

An introvert is often equated with someone who does not like people. In reality, they simply relate to people differently than an extrovert. They are capable of deep friendships and genuine love for others. They may not be the life of the party yet they enjoy quality conversations with a few people. Introversion should not be equated with anti-social behavior.

Introversion is often seen as a weakness, flaw, or problem to be solved like alcoholism. Join this program, attend this seminar, read this book and you’ll get better. Introversion is not a disease that needs a cure. It is a personality trait that needs to be celebrated. 

Nor is introversion the same as shyness. According to introvert expert Susan Cain, shyness is a fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.

This is a key reality. The introvert’s stimulus quota is met quite easily. They don’t need high amounts of enthusiasm, emotion, provocation, or inspiration to keep them going. They are usually self motivated or influenced by genuine offers of support. 

Lastly, introversion is not inherently narcissistic. The idea that introverts are essentially selfish and absorbed with themselves is false. Some may demonstrate an unhealthy degree of self-preoccupation without God in the picture. However, a healthy introversion always has an outward component to it. 

Amy Simpson’s description is fitting:

Introverts aren’t out of touch with the world around them; they’re so in touch, they can take only so much of it. Their brains are more active, so external stimuli can quickly overwhelm them. When this happens, they have to recharge on their own. They don’t need to be energized; they need space and quiet so they can draw on their internal energy. (click here for full article) 

 What Does An Introvert Look Like? 

Cain writes,

“Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame….may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions. (Quiet, p. 11)

McHugh denotes three major characteristics of introverts (Introverts in the Church, pp 35-43)

  • Energized by solitude – recharged from the inside out
  • Processes internally – integrate information and think silently
  • Preference for depth over breadth – in relationships, interests, self-discovery, 

I believe introversion in a Christian needs to be celebrated. An introvert has great potential for a deep and rich understanding and life-long experience of God. 

12 (Ideal) Spiritual Benefits of Being an Introvert 

  1. You joyously crave quiet solitude with the Holy Trinity like Mary at Jesus’ feet. 
  2. You care deeply about loving God with your whole heart, soul, and body and make intense effort to learn how. 
  3. You genuinely love and care for people out of a sincere heart no matter what is personally gained. 
  4. You listen well because the other person is more important than you. 
  5. You tend towards meekness since you do not like being the center of attention or talking about yourself constantly.  
  6. You are naturally attentive to what is around you; a sensitivity to others.  
  7. You passionately desire internal transformation since you know that all you do comes from the heart. 
  8. You honestly recognize your own faults and frailties stemming from regular and honest heart and mind examination. 
  9. You pray in solitude knowing that communion with God is the path to deepening union with Him. 
  10. You are “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1.19) seeking to understand before being understood. 
  11. You lead from the inside out with inner authenticity since who you are determines what you do. 
  12. You are a deep well of thoughtfulness and goodness having given so much of your life to the quiet pursuit of knowing God and His wisdom. 

Why might a Christian introvert live life more internally? Perhaps it’s because they intuitively know that they are never alone. The reality of the Holy Trinity dwelling within their heart and everywhere present transforms solitude into a simple, life-giving interaction. From that quiet participation in the life of the Trinity comes the substantial capability to sensibly participate in all of life. 

The final scene of Season one of the Detectorists, a British sitcom, shows the two main characters, Lance and Andy, at a small hole dug by Lance in the middle of a large field. His detector had spotted an object that turned out to be an old pull-ring. Disgusted by their bad luck again(!), they decide to head for the pub. The camera, however, continues underground showing the long-sought-after treasury of old jewelry, gold coins, and valuable artifacts left by King Sexred of the East Saxons; the very treasure they’ve been fervently hunting for years. If only they’d continued to dig deeper and not settled for a pitiful pull-ring.

A Christian introvert does not settle for superficial distractions. He or she persistently digs deeper. There is great reward in doing so. 

Are you an introvert? In light of this post, share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K

5 Ways To Live More Authentically

You Only Know What You Live

As I talk with Christians, I often hear them claim things about themselves that are not validated by their life. They know they fall short, but try to convince themselves otherwise. They don’t understand that experiencing the struggle to live a life in Christ is how they are becoming what they claim. They are not there yet. Saying so does not make it so. Sadly, many Christians live under the delusion that if they believe hard enough about “who they are” they will become that person. However, that is not true faith. That is not reality. 

Have you ever read a book and then believed you knew the topic because you read about it? Many Christians approach God this way. They read the Bible and think they know God because they’ve read about Him. They quote scripture believing they are quoting something about themselves. Maybe I’m sensitive to this since I pretty much did this very thing for decades.

You can think about and quote scriptures. But if you are not seriously trying to live scriptures then maybe its better for you to be silent and, in humility, admit that you struggle to live what you quote.

Why? Because you only know what you live. You only know something when you experience it. 

Knowing?

You see, the idea of “knowing” has gotten messed up. To most people knowing means to know about something. If you can get it “into your head” or “understand it” intellectually then you know it. But knowing was never meant to be purely intellectual.

If you could ask only one of the following people to come speak about France at your Rotary Club, which one would you invite? The person who read a travel book on France? The person who vacationed in Paris? The person who lived in France for a year? Or the person who was born and lived in France, speaks the language and actually is French? Which person really “knows” France?

This does not deny that each person above has a certain knowledge about France. Each level of knowledge, however, has its limits. That is what needs to be humbly acknowledged.

Christian Knowing?

Christians have a tendency to claim much about themselves that is not actually lived. “I know God.” “I am mature.” “I pray.” “I am a Christian.” “I love everybody.” “I am not judgmental.” “I am saved.” “I know the truth.” “I give everything to Jesus.” “I am filled with the Spirit.” “I am a follower of Jesus.” “I love you.” Easy to claim. Almost impossible to live.

Simultaneously, Christians hesitate to claim much about themselves that is actually lived. “I am impatient.” “I am judgmental.” “I am a controller.” “I am angry.” “I don’t love my enemies.” “I am proud.” “I trust myself more than God.” “I don’t know God.” “I lie.” “I am a hypocrite.” “I don’t act like Jesus.” Easy to live. Almost impossible to claim.

Solutions

  1. Learn to live in repentance. Keep turning from your old self, your former ways, your faulty thinking and keep turning to God and his love, light and life.
  2. Start using the word “becoming” – I am becoming mature, becoming less judgmental, becoming a follower of Jesus, becoming more humble, becoming a Christian.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Sizing yourself up against other Christians is unwise and useless.
  4. Devote yourself to knowing God in your experience of Him. Learn an everyday communion with the Trinity. Struggle on the narrow way with God. 
  5. On your spiritual journey, be quick to admit your faults and slow to claim mastery.

Don’t claim to know what you don’t live. You’re only fooling yourself when you do. Become more authentic.

Choose one of the solutions above. Begin to practice it today.

Dr. K

Starting Out As a Child Is How We Are To End

The Kingdom Is Available Only To Children

In one of **Bill Cosby’s first recorded comedy routines, he talks about some experiences of his childhood beginning with the line, “I started out as a child.” The audience erupts in laughter. It’s a funny line because it states the obvious, but normally forgotten, truth. We all start out our lives as children. Spiritually speaking, it’s too bad we don’t remain there. We become “adults” in our faith and forget what it’s like to be a child, the very thing Jesus tells us we must be. 

Jesus’ Teaching 

Truly I say to you, unless you turn (repent) and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18.3-4

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven/God. Matthew 19.14; Mark 10.15; Luke 18.16

Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. Luke 9.48

Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Luke 18.17

Humility is at the Core

There may be many characteristics of a child that Jesus is inviting us to be. However, humility is certainly at the core. You’ve seen humility in a child – a willingness to ask, eagerness to please, sensitivity to others, and innocence about life. Much of this changes as children grow older, cynical, critical, proud, and self-determined. 

Now, add to this “growth” a layer of Bible knowledge and/or theological enlightenment and you’ve got a path leading around the Kingdom of God not into it. To the theologically sophisticated, the spiritually mature, the ministry experienced, or the ecclesiastically educated a call to childlikeness seems impossible. No. It actually sounds foolish. 

Maybe Jesus was wrong? You might hope so. Is he teaching us that a mature faith is a child’s faith? That would be just like him.   

From what Jesus says, there is more hope for the ignorant layperson than for the degreed church leader. I’m not advocating ignorance. I’m just saying none of us have an excuse for not living a kingdom life. The most childlike have the best chance not the astute theologian. You can have all your Bible ducks in a row. But if you’re proud, defensive, and arrogant about your Bible knowledge, you’re going to miss out on the Kingdom. Count on it. 

Repent!

The solution, according to Jesus, is to repent. Turn from your arrogant ways. Admit your pride. Turn towards Jesus and learn humility from him who lived it, suffered in it, knew himself in it though quite knowledgable of scripture and humanity. 

Repent. Become a child again. Go back to where you started. Crawl on your hands and knees through the door of the Kingdom of God. It’s only open for children. 

How do you struggle in being like a child spiritually? Share your experience below. 

Dr. K 

**I know Cosby’s reputation has been tarnished by recent revelations. At the time we heard these recordings (in the 60’s) he was the funniest person we’d ever heard. 

5 Significant Lessons From Someone “All In”

Michael Brown, Guest Writer

What does it mean to be “all in” with God? If you’re tempted to think you’ve given all to Jesus, be challenged by St. Antony. If you wonder if you can actually live closer to God, be inspired by St. Antony.

If you are like most people, all you know of St Antony is that he was some old Christian Saint who has hospitals or a local church named after him.  Here is, as they say, the “rest of the story.”

Antony was born to wealthy parents around A.D. 250 in Middle Egypt.  Around the age of 20, his parents died leaving him with both wealth and the responsibility for his younger sister.  Some months later, while at church, he heard these words read: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  These words recorded in Matthew 21:19 are from Jesus to the rich young ruler, which Antony now was.  Not wanting his wealth to impair his journey with God, he gave his land and belongings to the locals keeping aside only a small sum for the care of his sister.

Shortly thereafter, again in church and again from Matthew, Jesus’ words were read: “do not worry about tomorrow.”  Believing this was spoken to him, he gave away his remaining money and left his sister in the care of some local pious women. Antony left the comfort of his wealth to pursue the ascetic life.

He first moved out of the family home and began practicing asceticism under the guidance of an old man in a nearby town.  Antony performed manual labor to support himself, giving away money to the poor. He prayed and read scripture. He helped those around him. He sealed himself in a nearby empty tomb, receiving only occasional bread from friends. He often sought guidance from pious men. 

Sometime later Antony had himself sealed in an unused tomb where he prayed, meditated, and battled temptations and demons. This was his life for 15 years.  Nearing the end of that time, God appeared to Antony promising never to leave him in times of trial and to make him known throughout the world.

Following the vision, Antony left the tomb to move deeper into the desert to an old fort. Friends, either worried about his welfare or who wanted to copy his ascetic lifestyle, would try to contact him. But Antony would shoo them away without ever opening the door. They would hear him singing. Finally, after 20 years, they broke down the door. Athanasius tells us in his biography of Antony that he emerged from the fort and his friends were “astonished” at his appearance, looking as fit as he had 20 years earlier.

Now in his mid-fifties, he moved yet deeper into the desert to continue to live the ascetic life.  However, he would receive those who sought him.  He also traveled to encourage fellow monks. He engaged in an early rhetorical battle against the Arian heretics.

After emerging from his fort sanctuary and for the remainder of his life, he never was far from his desert sanctuary. At the age of 105, Antony died in the desert. For over 1,500 years, Antony has been known as the father of the monastic movement.

 What You Can Learn From St. Antony 

  1. The lives of saints, such as Antony, are ones of inspiration not imitation.  Antony’s life and path with God were his, given to him by God.  You can learn much by reading about the saints and you should be inspired in your own struggles, but don’t take on the guilt of not living their lives.
  2. Focus more on God.  Watch one less TV show a week and spend the time in prayer and reading scripture and a book about a saint.
  3. Rejoice in all things.  Learn to see every tribulation, temptation, failure, sadness, tragedy and joy as an opportunity for prayer, which is an opportunity to approach God.
  4. Don’t be too quick to engage in ministry.  Jesus spent 30 years at home in a very small village and then 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry.  Paul was in the desert for 3 years and then exiled to Tarsus for some time before being called to ministry by the Apostles.  Moses lived the lonely life of a shepherd for 40 years before leading the Hebrews to freedom.  Our world is 24/7 and performance-driven.  Learn to live life at the pace of a desert-dwelling monk.
  5. Focusing on your own transformation is not selfishness.  It takes both good soil and time for a strong tree to grow and bear good fruit. Too many Christians have publicly fallen as they worked hard for God. Spend your time with God cooperating with Him as He transforms you. Then, like Jesus, only do what you see Him doing. But remember, only those with a pure heart see God. For most of us purification is a long, slow, painful struggle.

Presenting A Different Evangelism Program: “Crucifixion Evangelism”

Discipleship, Apostleship, and Dying

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be one of the disciples of Jesus – to hear his words, to see his miraculous works, to walk with him on dirt paths, to eat with him. That all sounds cozy and warm. Yet, I don’t really want to experience what he taught and lived – especially the notion that to follow him I must deny myself, take up my cross and die. Even though that is just what his faithful apostles did.

History teaches us that:

  • Peter was crucified upside down.
  • Andrew was crucified.
  • James, son of Zabedee, was beheaded.
  • Philip was crucified.
  • Bartholomew was crucified, filleted, then beheaded.
  • Thomas was pierced with five spears.
  • Matthew the evangelist was burned to death.
  • James, the son of Alphaeus, was crucified.
  • Thaddaeus or Jude, brother of James, was crucified.
  • Simon the zealot was crucified.
  • Matthias was stoned then beheaded with an ax when dead.
  • Paul was beheaded.
  • Only John, the brother of James, died in peace.

What a strange way to advance the gospel – make sure the most prominent members of the movement die ingloriously. Perhaps we’ve got it wrong?

When was the last time you heard of a gospel program that included death as one of its methods? “Folks, in order for your neighbors to be saved, you have to give up your life. Live the gospel of Jesus Christ is such a way that it costs you everything.” Evangelization by elimination. Crucifixion evangelism. I’m not sure you’d sell a lot of product.

Sadly, many try to evangelize by showing people how prosperous they will become if they follow Jesus. No wonder Christianity is losing its impact on society, culture, and individual lives.

Now you can see why I’m uncomfortable with all the talk about being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others. I hardly ever deny myself or take up the cross of death or actually follow the ways of Jesus. I talk a lot about it but never do it. I can’t even deny myself caffeine or sugar or a smart-mouth remark for Jesus’ sake let alone my life. How pitiful is that?!?

When I see what it cost these real disciples and apostles of Jesus, I’m conflicted regarding my own comfortable lifestyle. And I despise the fact that I want to live even more comfortably. Though there’s nothing I can do about the plentiful time in history in which I live, there is something I can do about its influence on my life.

I’ve already had caffeine and sugar this morning. I guess today I’ll just start by keeping my mouth shut when I want to say something stupid.

How will you live today in denying yourself, dying, and following Jesus? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

4 Ways to Deal With Distracting Thoughts When Meeting With God

A Few Take-Aways From Lunch With Ron

I had lunch with Ron at a nice restaurant in Brea, CA last week. We caught up on life, family, jobs, and spiritual “things.” That last item probably wouldn’t have taken place a few years ago. Ron’s in a different place. So am I. We had a meaningful and encouraging conversation. What a difference a few years makes.

I say that because it was just two guys sharing life together. I wasn’t trying to force some spiritual insight into his life as in days past when I was his pastor. He wasn’t trying to influence me in some way. Yet, in the relaxed conversation meaningful issues arose.

In the course of conversation, the topic of his morning devotional routine came up. He told me that he had a special place where he’d sit with his coffee, read 3-4 devotional books with his Bible, and then pray for his family whose pictures lined the mantel in front of him. He often struggled with distracting thoughts and with sleepiness.

I figure some of you can relate. His description might be a summary of your morning “devotions.”

Perhaps unknowingly, he’d ventured right into my bailiwick. I asked him, “Why do you read so much?” “I’m trying to make up for lost time,” he replied. (Ron came to Christ in his late 40’s.) All the reading didn’t seem to be benefitting him much, however. So, I encouraged him to spend less time reading and more time in quiet with God. “This time isn’t about gaining more information as it is simply being with God,” I said.

Then he asked a wonderful question. “What about all the crazy thoughts that come to me then?” I shared with him these ideas:

  • Say a prayer like, “Lord, have mercy” when distracting thoughts come. This will help you refocus on God.
  • Write down items you know you can’t forget – things to do today. Then you can forget about them since they’re written down. But, don’t do this too often. This is not a time to plan your day. You will be able to remember truly important items later.
  • Dismiss random or bad/ugly thoughts. Don’t dwell on them. These “birds” will fly over but you don’t have to build a nest for them.
  • Lastly, I encouraged him to place a candle along with a cross or picture of Jesus on a table in front of him. This would give him a physical object that would help his focus on God. Light the candle saying, “Lord, have mercy” or a prayer of devotion to God. (He really resonated with this idea.) Develop a routine or ritual that you do everyday. Let it be filled with God.

Ron is a great guy who is seeking to know God better. I get to join his journey. Together we become what we couldn’t become as distinct individuals.

Thanks be to God!

What is your take-away from our conversation? Share it below.

Dr. K