Today Is The Perfect Day To Be With Jesus

Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

What’s on your schedule today? Get kids to school? Meet with your company’s CEO? Go grocery shopping? Take your dog to the vet? Make 5 sales calls? Have lunch with a friend? Attend your son’s soccer game? Prepare your Bible study lesson? Study for tomorrow’s exam? Drop off clothes at Goodwill? Fix dinner for the family? Mow the yard? Get a hair cut? Stop yelling at the kids? Help a neighbor? Pray? Today is the perfect day to do all of this with Jesus. 

How about, spend time with Jesus? Is that on your schedule? Today is the perfect day to be with Jesus. The good news is that you can accomplish what’s on your schedule while spending time with Jesus. It’s not “either/or but “both/and” – you can BOTH accomplish what’s on your agenda AND be with Jesus. 

While you are driving, meeting, calling, eating, preparing, watching, fixing, or mowing you can be with Jesus. That’s good news. 

Even greater news is that Jesus is already with you and in you. You just have to pay attention…something that’s challenging to do since there is so much in a day that preoccupies your attention and distracts your heart and mind from God. 

Jesus invites you to live like this when He says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6.33). The priority of each day you live is God – His governance/authority/rule and His goodness/reality – in all things. When you live with God’s governance and goodness already present and active in and around you, you are assured of all other responsibilities being realized.

Schedules are best accomplished as you participate in God’s rule in union with Him. 

Actually devoting your every moment to Jesus Christ while doing everything else will take some concerted effort. Prayer is the key. 

You’re probably already connecting with God in prayer before your meals – three times a day. 

You can increase prayer times to the traditional “hours” of 6 AM & 9 AM, Noon, 3 PM, 6 PM, and 9 PM. Say the Lord’s prayer at these times drawing your heart to God. Set alerts on your phone for these hours as reminders to pray. You can pray silently wherever you are or whatever you’re doing at these times. 

You can “pray without ceasing” using the Jesus Prayer as the instrument played all throughout the day. Commune with God continually as you repeat the Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

As you drive, don’t turn on the radio or CD player but use the time to pray the Jesus Prayer and commune with God…yes, even with children present. 

Do this same thing as you fix meals, mow the lawn, sit in meetings, watch games, or eat your food. 

You will discover joy, peace, goodness and love like never before. Anxiety and fear will lessen. You’ll see beauty everywhere. You’ll become more like Jesus.

It’s simply the best way to live each day. 

How will you commune with God throughout the day today? 

Dr. K

P.S. Here’s a little cliche to practice: Commune as you commute. 

Dealing With Personal Faults While You Can

Become Loving, Patient, and Kind Intentionally

When a young pastor, I visited an elderly church member at her private assisted living apartment. She didn’t know who I was so our conversation began with introductions and small talk. She’d often zone out, entering a private world detached from her surroundings. As our staggering conversation continued, to my shocking surprise, she’d sometimes yell out, “Damn it, you, damn it!” or “Damn you!” “Damn, damn, damn!” I was rattled and disturbed by her behavior. Yet, there was nothing I could do to stop her. Eventually I prayed with her and left. I’ll never forget it. 

This may be an extreme example of what I write about today. However, there are plenty of examples of ordinary people who, as they get older, are simply unable to deal with their internal, usually hidden, brokenness.  

Here’s the challenge. Seriously work on your faults, your relational and/or spiritual jaggedness, when you are able because there will come a time when you are unable. 

First, you must know that you have a fault – broken raggedness in your character or foolish passion – before you can work on it. That reminds me of this truth. You struggle to see your faults not because they are small but because they are characteristic. You are blinded to your faults because they are so much a part of your DNA or character not because they are nonexistent.

Seeing yourself for who you really are usually requires an outside perspective. A paid professional like a counselor or a trusted friend or spouse who can speak honestly and be heard openly, are able to help open your eyes to yourself. It is the rare individual who is able on their own to humbly admit to their own faults. Most of us need feedback from others. 

Second, when you honestly admit your brokenness, you better give serious attention to it because when you get older you won’t have the stomach for it. More accurately, you’ll lack the motivation, the emotional and inner energy, necessary to battle your passions and find healing for your brokenness. 

I’ve not studied any research on this. I’ve simply observed older folks. What seems tolerable when they’re younger gets magnified as they get older. Have you seen this, too? 

The majority of us can begin by seriously considering how often we give in to: 

  • Anger
  • Impatience
  • Judgmentalism 
  • Insecurity 

Please don’t quickly read this list and move on. Consider each word and tie it to your own attitude and behavior. You probably (as I do) allow these passions to express themselves in and through you way too often. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to become more kind, loving, patient, and tenderhearted as I get older. However, this transformation will not happen automatically. I’ve got to work at it intentionally while I can. There’s a good chance I’ll work at it the rest of my life. The point is to begin diligently now.  

Perhaps you’ve seen the hurtful, offensive, bitter, crotchety old man (or woman) out there. Maybe he or she lives in your house or the house next door. Let them be the model of what you don’t want to be. You become someone pleasantly and lovingly different. 

Start woking on it now. 

How will you become a more loving, kind, and patient person over the next few months? 

Dr. K 

Advocating The Use Of The Psalms as Prayer

Using The Words God Has Given Us To Pray

Lisa is struggling to pray. She’s tired of saying the same words day after day like a broken record stuck in the same groove. She wants to liven up her prayer life – giving it new substance and earnestness. She isn’t asking to get more “into” prayer, more emotion or passion. She senses that if she can sincerely and concretely connect to God her relationship with God can move to another level – deeper and spiritually sharpened. One excellent way to address her desire and enhance her prayer life is to pray the Psalms. 

From the Introduction to The Ancient Faith Psalter comes these words that encourage the use of the Psalms in prayer. I invite you to read them and then find a way to insert the psalms into your praying.

The Psalter is the prayer book of the Church. It has been so since before there was a Christian Church. There is an ancient saying, attributed to St. Athanasius the Great, that “the Psalms are different from the rest of Scripture in that while the rest of Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.” When we pray the Psalms, we are praying the words God has given us to pray. It has also been said that the story of God’s dealing with Israel is an allegory of each person’s spiritual journey, the story of God’s dealings with every human soul. Therefore, in as much as the Psalms sum up and interpret the story of Israel, the Psalms also sum up and interpret the spiritual journey of every human being. 

The Psalms touch every experience of human life in our fallen world. Every joy and every terror, every fear and every hope are found expressed in the Psalms.Some psalms are beautiful, to the point of seeming sentimental; others are bloody and apparently vindictive. Such a range of emotion and experience is offered to us in prayer because in some inner or outer way, at some time in our life, we will all experience this full range of thoughts and feelings. In fact, because some of these thoughts and feelings are so extreme, so evidently horrible, it is only through praying the Psalms that we come to realize and then confess to ourselves and to God in prayer that yes, even such terrible things as these have at one time or another passed through our minds and perhaps even our hands. 

This literal reading of the Psalms, however, is only the beginning. As one prays the Psalms, one soon begins to realize that the enemy, the Amalekite or Philistine, the nations that rage against God, are not people or situations outside myself but are most poignantly referring to the wicked impulses and evil thoughts I must battle within myself. The Psalmist’s cry for deliverance becomes my own as I see within my own heart and mind the struggle between good and evil, the betraying thought, the accusing word, or the mocking laugh. The Psalms give us words, images, and metaphors by which we can cry out to God for help in the midst of our inner struggles. What the Psalmist describes externally speaks to our inner struggles because all our outer conflict is a reflection of inner struggle. Is this not what Jesus told us — it is out of the heart that murders and adultery flow (Matt. 15:19)? 

The Psalter is a prophetic book. It speaks prophetically of Christ, but it also speaks prophetically of all who are in Christ. Just as “strong bulls surround” Christ on the cross, so too all who pick up their cross and follow Christ experience, in one form or another, this attack of the strong and come to know their own weakness in resisting it, their own need to be delivered from “the power of the dog…the mouth of the lion…[and] the horns of the wild bulls.” Similarly, the prophetic declaration of the Resurrection of Christ, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered,” is also our declaration as we experience moments of deliverance and help over our inner enemies. The Psalms speak of God and man, Christ and Christian, inner and outer conflict, victory and defeat, heaven and earth, wisdom and foolishness. With few words and much meaning, the Psalms provide the images and words for every prayer, every need, every celebration on our journey through this world. 

          — from the Introduction to The Ancient Faith Psalter (pp. 5-7, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016) 

I urge you to pray the Psalms. You’ll be thankful that you did. 

Dr. K 

How To Enrich And Deepen Your Prayer Life With One Powerhouse Instrument

Using the Psalms as Prayer

Most evangelicals approach the reading of scripture with an intellectual mindset. They believe the scriptures have been given for the purpose of instruction and perhaps application. While there is certainly a need to comprehend aspects of scripture for our inner transformation, the scriptures have also been given to us as a means for prayer. Instead of trying to figure out what a passage means, figure out how to commune with God with the passage. 

Take Psalm 62 for example. Instead of analyzing Psalm 62, you can pray the words from your heart as if you had written them.

“Shall not my soul be subjected to God? For from Him comes my salvation. He only is my God and my Savior, my helper; I shall not be greatly moved…Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs mercy. For you requite everyone according to his works.” 

However, not all Psalms lend themselves so easily to this kind of praying. 

Lately, I’ve been finding great spiritual benefit (so it seems) from reading the Psalms as part of my prayer ritual. Maybe you’ll find the same spiritual benefit. Here’s what I do: 

I begin by praying the Trisagion prayers warming my heart to the presence of the Holy Trinity. In this environment of communion with God, I read a few Psalms. Using The Ancient Faith Psalter,” which divides the Psalms into portions suitable for this kind of setting. I sit or stand before my icons and read/pray the psalms designated for that day.

The practice is simply to read each psalm with an attentive and prayerful heart. Put down the pen and close the journal. Try not to analyze or even meditate on what’s being read. This is a time for prayer from the heart allowing the words of the psalm to focus your heart on God. The point is communion not comprehension, transformation not information, oneness not analysis.

Then, I continue in my prayers. In this way, the Psalms provide an ancient residence of communion with God. They become part and parcel of prayer rather than an appendix.

I also try not to analyze how this practice is affecting me spiritually. It’s in the doing that something happens. It doesn’t even matter what I think about what I’m doing. Being with God in this way is its own reward.  

Over the next few posts, I want to share from the Introduction to The Ancient Faith Psalter. It communicates well the place of the Psalms in our prayer life.

It begins with this sentence: “The Psalter is the prayer book of the Church.” (p. 5) 

I want to explore this reality in the posts that follow.

Currently, what is the role of the Psalms in your prayer life? 

Dr. K   

What the 5 “Solas” Really Mean

Looking At The Flip Side

The Reformation has powerfully impacted Christianity. Some think that’s a good thing. Others believe it is a disaster. Many understand that, as beneficial as the Reformation was in its time, there are unintended consequences that adversely affected the Church then and continue to do so today. 

It is often pointed out that there are five main tenets to the Reformation. I’ve listed them below with some unintended consequences from my own perspective. 

  • Sola Fide: Faith alone – I don’t need to put forth any effort to experience salvation and its fullness. 
  • Solus Christus: Christ alone – I don’t need the Church. It’s Jesus and me. 
  • Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone – I don’t need Tradition, creeds, councils, or personal experience. The Bible alone, and my or my group’s interpretation of it, is the only authority I need. 
  • Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone – I don’t need saints, hierarchy, images, or priest/clergy. I believe that to honor anyone else is to dishonor God.   
  • Sola Gratia: Grace alone – I don’t need sacraments, means, or method. Grace is seen as a created substance isolated from anything material, physical, or experiential.  

And, here are some unintended consequences to the Reformation: 

  1. I don’t need church history, organized religion, dogmatic doctrine, or any spiritual authority over me. 
  2. I am an autonomous self, able to determine for myself what I will believe (or not), what I will do (or not), how I will decide, whom I will follow, and when all this will take place. 
  3. I see church as optional. I need faith, Christ, scripture, God’s glory, and grace but I don’t need the Church. How could it be that the reformers missed the claim of “Sola Ecclesia?” Of course, they could not make that claim since they were opposing the one church they knew. Centuries of church divisions, theological battles, “fresh” truth claims, and re-awakenings have not healed the church’s brokenness or purified her operation. Since it’s not what I think it should be, I can reject it. 

I doubt what I write here will be received well by many of you. But, I want to challenge your thinking about these matters. 

I’m sure the reformers were devout, smart, and articulate men – to be admired for many reasons. However, the consequences of their actions and beliefs are difficult to deal with today.

At least for some of us. 

Dr. K 

The Struggle to Be Christlike Is Made More Difficult By The Idea of Positional Righteousness

Participating in God's Righteousness is Essential

For a while now, I’ve been writing about two de-motivators of spiritual efforts towards Christlikeness – “faith alone,” and “positional righteousness.” Why engage in practices that actually stimulate a deepening communion with God when I’m already righteous in Christ by faith alone? I’ve tried to show that these two notions are not found in scripture. In fact, there is sound evidence that effort must be made so that the salvation provided by God can be fully realized. 

This is a huge topic, much broader than I can address in a brief blog post. So, let me wrap things up with these final thoughts on “positional righteousness.” 

I’m calling into question the idea of positional righteousness because it demands too much from justification.

For positional righteousness to be effective, justification must be seen as… 

  • its own entity separate from sanctification. However, these aspects of salvation ( and other aspects) are unified in scripture (1 Corinthians 1.30, 6.11; Galatians 2.17-21, 3.23-29; 2 Thessalonians 2.13; Titus 3.4-8; Acts 26.18, Romans 5.18-21; Hebrews 2.11, 10.10). The Church for 1500 years understood salvation as one whole reality. The reformers fragmented it. 
  • a forensic action. The idea is that God declares you righteous setting you free from guilt. It’s God’s verdict or opinion of you. God changes His mind about you. Even if that is true, what difference does that actually make within you? Now, you have to convince yourself that it is true. But, you look at your life and conduct and know it’s not true. So you’re paralyzed, or at the least confused, about righteousness. 
  • by faith alone. You must become convinced or convince yourself that God “sees” you as righteous. It is dependent on your believing. You must have faith in your faith. You must imagine yourself as righteous in Christ, thinking about it until you become righteous. Can you see the frailty of this idea? It depends on you. This is superficial and potentially dangerous.
  • limited to a “declared righteousness.” However, justification is broader than this. It can be understood as the act, process, or state of being justified by God. Scripture does not define justification, it describes it. And when it does, as in Romans 5.18-21, a process is described.  
  • a “thing” from God. Righteousness is seen as an entity unto itself. It comes from God but is not God. However, righteousness is God Himself. He alone is righteous. So, if you are to become righteous you must actively live in God’s righteousness. You participate in Him and He acts in you. There is no other way to become righteous.  

Positional righteousness is built like a house of cards. You blow away one card and the whole house crumbles.  

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human being and holder of 28 medals, was never declared the winner of a race until he actually ran (and won) the race. God’s rightful declaration of our righteousness comes at the finish line, the judgment seat of Christ. So, we diligently run the race set before us.  

Here’s the bottom line. Your righteousness is not so much about being declared righteous as it is about being and living in union, relationally with God.

These are really two different “systems” of understanding what it is to be a Christian. We might say one is “judicial” and the other “relational.” Judicial has won the day in evangelicalism. However, thousands are discovering that only in a deepening relationship, a communal partnership, with God can true righteousness take place in one’s life. 

This may be what Paul is getting at in his own personal journey with God recorded in Philippians 3. He explains that he has a righteousness from God that comes through faith in Christ which includes knowing Christ – in power, suffering and death – pressing on to make this his own, and straining forward to what lies ahead. He does not say he’s declared righteous so all is good. But, he is saying that he is living in a righteousness that comes from God (only God is righteous) through knowing Christ with great effort. He must participate in that righteousness for it to be effective in his life. 

Remember, righteousness is God’s not ours. You can participate through faith in Christ Jesus in the righteousness of God, becoming more like Him day after day. The key is to participate.

How are you participating in the righteousness of God? 

Dr. K 

Identifying as Righteous: Dangers & Alternatives

Does Identifying Yourself as Righteous Help You Become Righteous?

Are you made more righteous because you think you’re righteous? That seems to be the notion behind the identity movement which says: identify yourself differently and you’ll become different. So, though it’s obvious that we’re not righteous due to our unrighteous thoughts and actions, we keep telling ourselves that we actually are righteous: “I’m perfectly righteous in Christ.” Because I’m a Christian, in Christ, I’m automatically righteous. It’s all a mind game. 

We know our conduct is not righteous but we excuse ourselves because “I’m perfectly righteous in Christ.” 

Dangers: 

Complacency – No effort towards god-likeness is needed. You simply hang out here on earth until Jesus comes. Perhaps you’ll do something for Him. But as far as your heart is concerned, you’re good to go. 

Sinfulness – Interestingly, the people I know who most strongly believe this are also people who are proud, judgmental, manipulative, and heady. Others excuse their sinful ways because they are “human” though “clothed in the righteousness of Christ.” Sin is only taken seriously in theory. 

Rationalization – Literally, you reason it out. It’s right because it makes sense to you: Christ is righteous. I’m in Christ. Therefore, I’m righteous. Not necessarily. Beware, how you rationalize your behavior.  

A better alternative, more in line with reality…

Let’s assume you are in Christ. Yet you know you are far from being righteous, godly, humble, loving, and just. However, because you’re in Christ you have what you need – His life, grace, wisdom, power, and strength – to more deeply participate in Him to the healing and renewal of your soul, mind, heart, and body.

Being in Christ, you really can face your sins and faults openly and clearly leading to repentance while experiencing His love, grace and mercy in union with Him. 

Better to see yourself as you really are, find God present in the mess, and in repentance cry out for His mercy. Then, leave it to God to guide you into righteousness.  

Being “in Christ” is not a favored position in which you become complacent but a living reality which demands your participation. 

I’ll reflect on this more in my next post. 

For now, reflect on your own understanding of “becoming righteous.”

Does it matter to you?

Do you excuse your unrighteous thoughts, attitudes, and actions because you’re “clothed in Christ’s righteousness?”

Do you find yourself hesitant to make an effort to become righteous because you’re already righteous?

Do you think it’s enough to believe you’re righteous in Christ? 

How does your understanding of righteousness affect your daily living?  

Dr. K 

A Second-Look At A Popular “Doctrine” That Clouds Spiritual Reality

Positional Righteousness Re-Examined

Does this make sense to you? Why do I need to make any effort to move forward spiritually when God sees me as perfectly righteous in Jesus Christ? Since I’m perfect in Christ, why would I struggle to pray, fast, love my neighbor, or give to the poor? This highlights another de-motivating idea (along with “faith alone”) that has entrenched itself into the belief systems of many evangelicals. It goes something like this: Since the Christian is declared and seen by God as perfectly righteous in Christ, it is not necessary to exercise any effort or engage any means to become like Christ. Here is another example of a theological idea interfering with actual spiritual reality. 

Here are some common phrases to describe what I’m talking about: 

“Imputed righteousness” – Protestant Christian doctrine that a sinner is accounted righteous by God purely by God’s grace through faith in Christ, and thus all depends on Christ’s merit and worthiness, rather that on one’s own merit and worthiness. It is a concept in Christian theology that proposes that the “righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers – that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith.” It is on the basis of this “alien” (i.e. from the outside) righteousness that God accepts humans. 

“Positional righteousness” – A Christian is in perfect standing before God in Christ. The believer is just as perfect as Christ in the Father’s sight. 

“Positional sanctification” – God declares a Christian to be absolutely holy the moment he/she believes in Jesus Christ. When God looks at a Christian, He sees the righteousness and holiness of Christ. 

Nowhere in scripture are Christians actually told to identify themselves as righteous because God sees them that way.  A few scripture passages (Philippians 3.8-9, Romans 5.17, 1 Corinthians 1.30, Ephesians 1.6) are interpreted with this notion in mind. However, this direct teaching is absent from scripture.

Why Is This Popular? 

Many cling to this teaching in order to convince themselves that, despite their unrighteous thoughts, behavior, and attitudes, they are actually righteous.

Many cling to this teaching because it seems logical. I am in Christ and He is righteous so that makes me righteous. Yet, Jesus is also love, kindness, peace, humble, wise, patient, gentle, meek, wonder-working, prayerful, and rightfully authoritative. Are you automatically all of those since you’re in Christ? No one speaks of “positional humility” (I am humble because Christ is humble) because we know better. Why then, positional righteousness? 

Key Passage 

2 Corinthians 5.21: For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (Unfortunately, the KJV mis-translates the Greek word genometha (might become) as “be made” – “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”)

Reasons to believe this verse does NOT support “positional righteousness:”

  1. The verse, in context, is speaking of the apostles not Christians in general.
  2. There is no mention of faith here as the hinge that makes us righteous.
  3. Imputation is not mentioned. Yet, the verse is often interpreted that our sin is laid on Him and by faith His righteousness is imputed to us. 
  4. When God took on flesh, He was made “to be sin for us.” This is not just a reference to the cross but to all of his earthly life from birth to death. 
  5. The phrase “that we might become” seems to speak of an ongoing process not a past, accomplished fact. 

In other words, if taken at face value, the verse is teaching that because Christ took sin upon himself, humans may become righteous. 

Remove a theological agenda and the verse reads:

For us, sinless Christ became like sinful man, so that sinful man might become like sinless God.

This is in agreement with Gregory of Nazianzen (329-390) who wrote: “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” Jesus assumed human flesh, soul, and mind so that all that makes us human might be redeemed and healed.

He also wrote:

Let us seek to be like Christ, because Christ also became like us: to become gods through him since he himself, through us, became a man. He took the worst upon himself to make us a gift of the best.

Jesus became like you so that you might become like Him. 

Does that reality light a fire of desire in your heart? Does who Jesus is and what He did give you hope and drive to become like Him? 

Believing in positional righteousness does not inspire or give hope. But, Jesus does. 

Why is this so difficult to grasp? I’ll touch on that in my next post. 

Dr. K 

It’s All For Your Salvation

2 Corinthians 1:6 and Salvation

I was planning on moving on from my discussion of faith alone and salvation until I read 2 Corinthians 1.6 this morning. This is how it reads in the NKJV:

Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted it is for your consolation and salvation.

This verse makes no sense if you believe salvation is by faith alone. How could Paul’s sufferings or consolations have any bearing on any one else’s salvation? What do personal sufferings have to do with one’s salvation if salvation is only brought about by faith alone? 

To make “faith alone” work for this verse, you’d have to do some radical spiritual gymnastics – twisting, jumping, and flipping around. You end up being more concerned about sticking to a theological system than simply understanding scripture itself. 

However, this verse means something to us as we understand salvation to include bringing us into union with the Triune God, entailing all of life, and healing of our hearts and minds. Salvation is not limited to forgiving sins, escaping hell, and getting us to heaven. Salvation also involves enduring suffering and enjoying consolation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is much more here than faith alone. 

Salvation is ours as we, in faith, endure affliction and enjoy consolation. 

St. Paul is an example to us of this reality. 

Now the verse makes sense. 

Today, as you struggle, suffer, rejoice, and/or find comfort, know that all of this is for your salvation. 

Dr. K