Archive for September, 2010

Am I A Christian?

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Am I a Christian? What does that word even mean anymore? It is thrown around rather cavalierly in our present time. Do I want to be called a Christian? I am not sure anymore. “Wait a second”, you may be thinking. How dare I say such a thing? Before you label me a heretic to be thrown to the lions, lets examine a few thoughts. Jesus Christ is absolutely the priority in my life. Actually, He isn’t always my priority, though I wish He was. I do try to make my relationship with Jesus Christ my utmost priority, but I am selfish sometimes. My point is, I have a relationship with Christ, and I treasure that friendship. I completely espouse the views of Christ. I hold marriage, sexuality, and race to be sacred. Then why my aversion to being called a Christian?

The early Christian church was called “The Way”. It was a brand new movement. Who Jesus was, the things He said, His death and atonement for the sins of man were spreading like wild fire. Somewhere around A.D. 50 “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” according to Acts 11:26. So what does the term “Christianity” mean? The word “Christian” means to be “of Christ”, “belonging to Christ” or “Christ like”. I can think of no better way to describe myself, for I do belong to Christ and I strive to be like Christ.

So what is the problem? The word “Christian” has in a large sense become something other than being “like Christ” or “of Christ”. When I see pseudo-intellectual hate mongers like Terry Jones saying that they are a “Christian”, but that they plan to burn the Qu’ran; I ask myself, “Is that like Christ?” When I see people from Westboro Baptist Church who are “Christians” holding up signs that say “God hates fags” I ask myself, “Is that of Christ?” When I see “Christians” trying to force their beliefs on other people, peddling hate, being judgmental, hypocritical, and selfish I wonder what Christianity has become? These actions are the antithesis of what Jesus represented and taught.

To many, the term “Christian” means selfish, bigoted, narrow minded, judgmental, hypocritical, cynical, backstabber’s who eat their own.  This is the conflict. The term has become associated with exactly what it should not be, what it was never meant to be. If I may invoke that cliché, it isn’t Jesus that people outside of Christianity have a difficult time with, it is His followers. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” If Christians belong to Christ and are like Christ, everyone should like being around them. One thing you cannot deny in the bible, people with a life stooped in problems and enveloped in sin loved being around Jesus, yet today this often is not the case with Christians.

So what is the solution? Should we go back to being called The Way? Maybe we could just label ourselves Christ followers, as I often do. Or perhaps we could keep the term Christan and each one of us could examine what Jesus was really like? Might we strip away the selfish, egocentric presuppositions that taint our view of Christ and His Gospel?

Granted, Christians are human and will mess up. Many view Christ through the lens of Christians and do not like what they see. We will never be able to divorce our fallen nature this side of glory and will continue to somewhat blemish the cause of Christ to those outside the faith. Yet, might we remember that everything we do affects those around us?

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in the law, He narrowed all of the law down to two commandments. In Matthew 22, Jesus admonishes us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” I think our time as Christians, believers, members of The Way, followers of Christ would be better spent if we solely embraced these two commands.

I am by no means saying that we should water down the truth. The truth is offensive to some. The truth is offensive to me at times, but it is still the truth. It is not our job to try and offend, only to speak truth. We cannot rely on truth alone however. We must speak the truth with love. For truth without love leads to staunch legalism. Truth without love allows no room for mistakes, grace or mercy. Love without truth leads to hedonism. We must make sure that truth and love are inextricably linked together. Christians cannot be like Christ without truth and love dancing harmoniously in the life of the believer.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.

Josh

Where Life Has Brought Me…

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So here I am, it has been months and months since I have sat down and written anything for the joy of doing so.  I have written plenty for work and school, but often find making the time to write for fun to be an elusive task. I need to do so more often, I find it cathartic. I decided to start a new blog, and ported my few older entries over. For now, I just want to give a few updates. Life has been hectic from every angle. Hayden Dekker will be here in about ten weeks. I get a little more excited and scared every day that goes by. It all seems pretty surreal. We have his room practically ready to go. Majority of the finishing touches will be done tomorrow since I have a free day. Then, we are just waiting on furniture to arrive. I have a growing enthusiasm for the next several months. This is absolutely my favorite time of the year. I woke up this morning and it felt nice and cool outside. Fall is palpable. I just wondered why fall has an extra name, autumn. Why are spring, summer and winter excluded from having a nickname as well? I have a host of things to be excited about over the next several months. I will write about them as they come along. The fall semester starts Tuesday, and after this semester I am officially at the half way mark on my degree. I am taking Systematic Theology this semester and have a stack of books to plow through. I set a goal this year to read a book every two weeks. Thus far, I have read eighteen books, only eight more to go. That should do for now. There is no use that I ramble on and on.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.

Josh

Waiting…

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I have a problem, and I am not under the impression that I am unique in my difficulty. I feel as though I am always waiting. Every phase of my life I feel that I am waiting on the next. Every achievement I attain, I then wait for further achievement. Every problem I overcome, I am immediately on to the next task, never relishing that moment of victory. I feel that I rarely take the time to reflect on accomplishments or see where the Lord has brought me at the present.

I am reminded of a fable about a young boy who unearthed an ornately decorated silver ball with a golden string protruding through a small hole. The boy marveled at the intricate design carved into the ball and new it held some special significance. He soon found that every time he pulled the golden string that the passage of time increased. The harder he pulled the string, the faster that time went by. The boy’s mind began to reel about the practical implications from such a magical find. The next day at school he decided to see if he could use his treasure to skip a boorish day in the books. When his teacher began the lecture he pulled the magical sphere from his pocket and gently tugged on the string. He then awoke to his class packing their things to go home. The boy smiled and asked himself what other things in life he might skip. He wondered if he could skip school altogether, eager to experience manhood. That night, he pulled the string with all he could muster and awoke on the day of his high school graduation. “Amazing”, the boy muttered under his breath. He soon found that being an adult in the workforce was not without its challenges, so he would tug the string every time he found himself in trying circumstances, or when he was eager to experience something else in life. Eventually, the boy awoke as an old man and was grieved that his life had gone by so quickly, but it was too late. He longed to go back and fill in all the gaps that he glossed over, but no one is allowed to go back and re-experience the life they missed.

Sometimes I can relate to this young boy’s plight. I find that I often look forward to the next big thing in my life, never taking time to enjoy the moments. Life is simply an abundance of moments strung together. To miss out on the moments is to ultimately miss out on life. I am learning to live in the moment and not constantly look to the future. The moment is where we grow. It is where we live and can hear God speak to us. To constantly be looking to the future is nothing more than escapism. When one is fearful of the problems they face in the moment, he becomes tempted to escape to the future. This shows a lack of contentment for the life that God has given you. Why should God bring new blessings into one’s life if they cannot enjoy the current areas of blessing in their life at the present?

In Psalm 46:10 we are encouraged to, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I constantly find within myself a restlessness that leads me to be discontent. It is these restless periods that I am to simply be still. I must take time to reflect on where God has brought me and what He currently is teaching me.

The moments where we feel like we are waiting is when God wants us to shift our attention to Him for guidance. During times of uncertainty or restlessness we are tempted to get impatient. We then want to push ahead and we miss out on the lessons and blessings of today. A life of regret is spent constantly looking to the future. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it.” We are to make the most of the present because life passes in a blink.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Walking Good

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In July of 2008, my wife and I spent a week in Montego Bay, Jamaica for our honeymoon. We could not have asked for a better experience. Beautiful skies, tropical sunsets, the waves gently lapping at the steps outside of our beachside vista and time to spend together enjoying the community with God’s creation. During our stay there we noticed a peculiar saying by the locals, “walk good.” We would hear this at various times throughout the day. After a show the performer would say,” Goodnight and walk good.” When we finished a meal our waiter would send us on our way and remind us in his thick Jamaican accent to “walk good.” This started to become a joke between Devon and I. We continually reminded one another to “walk good” throughout our stay.

During the week I started to wonder what does it mean for a person to walk good? Furthermore, how does a Christian walk good? As a minister and therapist I am constantly peeling back the curtain and looking at people’s struggles, habits, hurts and problems. I myself am no exception. I am a broken human being with more problems and shortcomings than I would readily like to admit. It is so much easier to deny them and make everyone else think I am walking hand in hand with Jesus Christ every second of every day. We all have our problems. I know a few Christians that would have me believe otherwise. A lack of struggles and problems do not a good Christian make. To think we are without our problems is narcissistic, egotistic, or living in denial.

One thing I have found is many of my problems, and this applies to all people, could often be avoided if I would simply walk good. My favorite verse in the Bible is Ephesians 5:15. It is verse that calls us to live to a very high standard and it is pure application. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV) says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Circumspectly means to look around. We get the picture of someone taking great care as they walk down a path. Each step is made with precision and vigilance. This is what our Jamaican friends were communicating to us. They were admonishing us to be careful as we exit and make our way home. In this verse the Apostle Paul challenges us to live carefully. The NIV translation of this verse says “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” The question is, are we living a life that seeks wisdom? Are we walking down the path of life giving great attention to how we walk and where we are headed?

So we get the idea from this passage in Ephesians that we are to live wise, that we are to be careful in living our lives. Knowledge is one thing and application another. How do we do it? We ask ourselves a question. We ask ourselves this question every day. Every decision and aspect of our lives should be funneled through one single question. What is the wise thing for me to do? This question should be the backdrop for our entire lives. This is not a question many people think, or even want, to ask? Most people simply want to know is there a rule against it. Is there a Bible verse that says what I am about to is ok, or does the Bible speak out against it? I believe we should consult the Bible for every decision we make, but asking “is this a wise decision” holds us to a higher standard. Just because there is not a rule or Bible verse against a certain action does not mean it is wise for one to do. Everyone has different struggles, histories, temptations, circumstances and experiences. What is wise for one person is not always wise for another.

Asking “what is the wise thing to do?” radically alters how we live and raises the bar for morality and making good decisions. In I Corinthians 10:23 (NIV) Paul tells us, “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.” Just because there is not a rule or verse against something does not make it a wise thing to do.

Paul then goes on to tell us in Ephesians 5:15 to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” He tells us we are to “make the most of every opportunity we have.” Wise people redeem the time. People that walk good don’t waste the time they have. They realize that one wrong decision leads to another and this wastes precious time and energy. I see so many people squander the time they have. They often do this by living in denial. They want their life to be at a certain point. They feel they have a goal and they are headed toward it. They dream about where they are going. They talk about where they are headed in life. They even pray for God to bless their endeavors as they head toward said goal. When you actually evaluate their lives they are making no progress at all to where they want to be. It is the direction you are headed that determines where you end up. We can dream, pray, hope and discuss where we want to be further down the path, but if we are not taking active steps in that direction we are deceiving ourselves. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.” When it comes to living a life called to wisdom there are various windows of opportunity. One squandered decision cost us time and we may never be able to make it up. We must redeem the time. We are never stagnate; our lives are constantly headed somewhere, be it forward or backward. The question is, “are you headed in the direction you want to be?” Are you walking good? Are you living as the wise? This question should govern our lives.

We must keep in mind that it is not our wisdom that we seek to live by. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) challenges us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” We are to seek God’s wisdom if we hope to have a straighter path to walk down. We are to ask “what is wise in relation to who I am as a unique individual taking into account my history, circumstances and struggles?”

This principle and verse is the reason I titled my blog Walk Good. All of my entries will be me trying to live out this challenge and make sense out of life. I hope at the end of my life I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing I did my best to walk good.

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Beginnings

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So, I decided to finally start a blog. This has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time now. It is not that I have a lack of things to write about that has kept me from starting; on the contrary, it has been sheer lack of time. I finally figured out that my life has no intention of slowing down, so I figured no time is better than the present to start exploring my thoughts through writing. Words are the most powerful form of self-expression I believe. When Anne Frank started journaling, she made the statement that “paper is much friendlier than people. Though putting pen to paper is less than common, the principle remains. Expressing one’s thoughts through writing offers a freedom that is different than conversing with a friend. It is introspective, no one is sizing up your every word, statements can be retracted or corrected and you get to say exactly what you want and take as much time to articulate your thoughts as you desire.

I have many intended purposes for starting this blog. One is simply to become a better writer. Malcolm Gladwell shares in his book, Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours for one to become a master at his trade. I intend to start the journey toward my 10,000 hours. How many years this will take I need not think about. Another goal is to explore life through writing. I feel that there is no better way to understand life than putting one’s thoughts on paper. You can’t burrow down into self denial. There are your thoughts staring back at you, as often as you want to read them. Escapism is no longer an option. Another goal I have is to be able to track growth, how my thoughts shift, and the path my life has taken over the years. My last goal for this effort involves you, the reader. I hope to be able to share my thoughts with you and that you will in turn share how these thoughts have impacted you or what similarities we may share.

This blog will cover a diverse range of topics. Mainly, whatever I feel like writing about because it is, after all, my blog. The vast majority of my writing will simply be me making sense out of life through the creative medium of word play. More often than not, this will be of a spiritual nature due to the fact that my life is shaped entirely by Jesus Christ. Fear not, this will not be the tirade of some spiritual nut that wants to convert everyone I come in contact with. Often my blogs will be related to my life as a minister and psychotherapist (which is a fancy way of saying counselor) and how spirituality intersects with our psychological and emotional being. Some entries will be light hearted and playful, while others will be introspective and perhaps gloomy. No emotional element will be off limits. Sometimes it will be about my love for all things technological and electronic, while other times it will consist of what I am reading and my reaction to the thoughts I have recently ingested. The only deficit I can think of at the moment about starting to write more often is that it will take some time away from reading. When I have a book in my hand I cannot help but feel alive. I hope writing has this same life giving effect. I am sure you will learn a lot about my daily struggles, imperfections and life with my family, friends and the people that tend to make me want to lash out (whose names shall be changed to protect the guilty).
There is nothing overly exciting about my life to the outside observer. Read if you like and comment if you want. This writing is mainly for me as I expressed above in my goals for starting this project.

If you are reading this you may be wondering where the title for my blog came from, more on that later.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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