Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ the source of inner strength

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6The other day, I listened as someone told my daughter that she needed to find and rely on her “inner strength.”

Inner strength.

What exactly does that mean? Determination? Confidence? A recognition of personal identity and worth? Where does inner strength come from? Do “broken” people have it and just can’t find it because it’s buried under layers of pain or fear or hopelessness?

My problem with “inner strength” is that it waxes and wanes, usually parallel to my circumstances. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Crisis is just as likely to discourage me as it is to fuel me to action. Criticism is just as likely to fill me with doubt as it is to spark a fire of determination. Rejection is just as likely to send me running as it is to compel me to plant my feet. Inner strength seems to be dependent on how I feel and think about myself at any give time.

Inner strength is shifting sand. I can’t plant my feet in shifting sand.

Thankfully, my daughter already knows all this. We were both gracious, both engaged and fully listening to the well-meaning giver of unsolicited advice, but as the young woman spoke, I prayed. “Lord, should I tell her? Have you prepared her mind and heart to hear?” She paused, raising her eyebrows, looking for a response, seemingly expecting affirmation and agreement.

My daughter and I looked at each other. We both knew what could be shared in that moment.

I said, “As Christians, we believe there’s even more to it than that. The Bible tells us that because we have a relationship with Jesus, we have a helper, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so we are never alone. God is always with us. Everywhere we go.”

There was a brief pause. She hadn’t expected that response.

She broke the awkward silence by turning back to my daughter again. “That’s good…but sometimes, you’ll feel like God isn’t there…”

She continued a few more minutes, paused again, and looked at me. I had been praying about what to say, if anything.

I said, “It’s true, there are times when it doesn’t seem like God is there. It’s like when you learned to ride a bike. Whoever was teaching you was running behind the bike, holding the seat, and then he let go. You didn’t feel his hand on the bike anymore, but you knew he was still there. When you fell, he was there to pick you up and comfort you and encourage you to try again. He didn’t keep you from falling, but he never left.”

I could tell she had heard me. I didn’t push. I hadn’t stopped her as she explained to my daughter that she needed inner strength for those times when she didn’t “feel” God.

My daughter knows her faith isn’t grounded in her emotions. My daughter and I both know how to practice the presence of God and that sometimes, He is silent. We both understand that the source of our inner strength is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that whether we “feel” God or not, we can have confidence that He is with us. I knew I had planted a seed and that the young woman would think about the conversation later.

God would not be revealed to her as the ultimate source of inner strength through our effort or will. We just planted a seed. Now, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften her heart, open her mind and “draw her to Himself.” (John 6:44)

If you’ve entered into a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. When you lack confidence in yourself, I pray you are blessed with confidence in Christ. I pray you find your identity in Christ and understand your value through a deep understanding of His unconditional love for you. I pray that regardless of how you may feel on a given day, you will remember, “God is with you, wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

December 11, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ seek, listen, be a witness, plant seeds, pray, trust and wait.

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Have you ever been in a situation where the harder you try, the farther away from your goal you seem to get? No matter how focused and determined you are, no matter what you do or say, the distance between what you’re striving for and what’s actually happening just continues to grow.

Exponentially.

What begins as a desire to set things “right” can birth a desperation that leaves a knot in the pit of your stomach and a frantic anxiety that drives us to push and try to manipulate circumstances.

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve experienced in this area has been a situation where I was trying to explain something God was teaching and revealing to me and the more I talked (or wrote), the more people misunderstood and rejected what I was trying to say. The more angry they became, the more they dismissed me and distanced themselves and in many cases, the more people cut off our relationship completely, choosing instead to talk about me behind my back and on the internet.

You just want to fix that kind of thing, ya know?

But no matter how hard I tried to explain what I was discovering and feeling, the more I realized I was talking (and typing) to air. I knew I was supposed to share what God was teaching me and I did. Reluctantly and after months of arguing with God, with love and heartache for people I cared about, despite growing awareness of the bridges that were being burned.

But over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that my obedience in sharing my lesson wasn’t to change hearts or minds or even just circumstances. It was to be a witness to Christ’s influence in my life. And it was to plant seeds. God would bring the rain for growth.

and the drought to create thirst.

and the fire to test.

The growing season has not been short or free from pain, for me or for others. But in hindsight, I can see how God has been moving. Slow and steady, softening hearts and opening minds. Teaching lessons that, while different from mine, have and continue to produce the best harvest – hearts drawn closer to Christ. And while it’s heartbreaking to see the pain that’s had to be borne through this season, The Holy Spirit has reminded me that when hearts are closer to Christ, it’s impossible that they remain unchanged. Through the change – the transformation – of the heart, other changes automatically come to fruition. Those circumstances that I desperately tried to change on my own, God has changed and continues to change.

My job was to seek and listen to the Voice of Truth. My job was to be a witness to what God was doing in my heart and mind. My job was to plant seeds, regardless of the consequences. My job was to pray, in faith, trusting that God would work all things for His greater, ultimate good, which is to draw people into intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him.

Not by my might.

Not by my power.

But by His Spirit.

So, whatever your impossible circumstances, pray. Persistently. and wait. His timing is perfect, even when He delays.

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Corrie ten Boom

December 10, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6b: pushing a rock.

I’ve been posting memory verses on facebook for a few weeks now, a new verse starting every Sunday. Every day, I post an new image from pinterest and sometimes write a short commentary on the verse. We’ll find out how consistent I am, both on facebook and now here on my blog. Here’s the first post for this week:

Zechariah 4 6 Not by Might Not by Power Pushing a Rock Uphill“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” Zechariah 4:6b

I don’t know about you, but when there’s a problem, I want to fix it.

Right Now.

Whether the problem is mine or someone else’s, the most frustrating thing in the world is when I am powerless to change circumstances for the better. But what is better? Who am I to decide that? Who are you?

We can be so arrogant in our pain sometimes, thinking a loving God wouldn’t – couldn’t possibly – want or use this circumstance to accomplish His omniscient understanding of “better.”

The first image for this week’s #memoryverse reminds me of a story. I’ll paraphrase, so if you’ve heard it before, bear with me. A young man asks God what He wants him to do with his life. God tells him that every day, he is to go and push a giant rock at the bottom of a valley nearby. For twenty years, the man pushes the rock. All. day. long. After twenty years (I would have lasted a day), the man finally cries out in frustration “God, I’ve done EXACTLY what You’ve told me to do for TWENTY years and that rock hasn’t even moved a fraction of an inch!” God looks at the man with compassion and replies, “I didn’t ask you to MOVE the rock. I only asked you to push it. Look at your arms. Your legs. Look at your body. Look at how strong you’ve become.”

oh. I didn’t consider that.

The promise of Isaiah 66:9 tells us “‘In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,’ says the Lord.”

Are you suffering and all your efforts feel as futile as pushing against a giant rock all day long? The rock may not be moving, but REMEMBER.

God is.

It’s possible, that in His sovereign will, God may have placed that rock in your life. He may have just allowed Satan to throw a rock at you. Regardless of the source of the rock, there is peace that comes from the confidence that God is redeeming every pain for ULTIMATE “better.”

Sometimes, He uses rocks to make us stronger.

While I don’t claim to know what God’s “better” is with regard to the circumstances of your life, I can say with confidence that, above everything else that’s going on in your life, His “better” is that you will be drawn closer to Him and that through an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Jesus, you will be transformed. I pray this confidence and peace for you today.

“Courage, dear heart.” Aslan

December 8, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion, suffering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas shoes. seriously.

Christmas Shoes songBuying some Rockports for FavoriteHusband on ebay so I had to sing: “I’m gonna buy these shoes…”

(pause)

Me: “It’s like that song was intentionally written to make people cry. Just wanna find the guy who wrote it and smack him. It doesn’t make sense. What little kid’s gonna tell a cashier ‘Mister, I wanna buy these shoes.’ That would just never happen. It’s not how it works. You put your stuff on the counter, the cashier scans it, you give them money. End of story. And how did the little boy even get there? All by himself? He’s supposed to be a little kid. Seriously. It just doesn’t make sense.”

FavoriteHusband just shakes his head, rolls his eyes and grins: “You are your son’s mother.”

Let me just say, if you are ever in line behind a filthy little boy who’s all alone and you hear him ask the cashier to “please hurry” because he’s buying shoes for his dying momma, do NOT stand there and watch while they ‘count pennies for what seemed like years.’ Do NOT wait for the kid to ASK you to help. Pay for the shoes. and make sure he has a ride. Especially if it’s Christmas eve. Seriously.

#rantcomplete

December 5, 2014 Posted by | holidays, laugh!, music, pinterest, youtube | Leave a comment

speak life.

When PinkGirl and I go to Disney, we often pray and look for opportunities to “speak life” to the people God places in our path.

I wish I could say “always” instead of “often” but I can’t.

Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we are obliviously self-involved.

But not today.

1 thessalonians 5 11I posted this on facebook last night:

“I was reminded again tonight.

Everybody is ‪#‎justadifferentkindofbroken‬

Sometimes, it’s all I can do NOT to abandon “appropriate” surface conversation and take someone by the hand, lead them to a quite corner, look them in the eye, and ask, “How are you, REALLY?” and really SEE them and LISTEN to them.

PinkGirl and I are going to Magic Kingdom tomorrow. Already praying we recognize God’s prompting when he nudges us to encourage the person or people He places in our path. yeah. we know we’re weird. but we’ve almost come to terms with that. ‪
#‎seepeople‬ ‪#‎edify‬ ‪#‎loveGodloveothers‬

A friend commented: “Sometimes takes multiple conversations and kind gestures before someone will share. Trust is a big thing when you share your stuff. And you have to make sure that someone will walk through it with love and kindness.”

I responded this morning:

“I’m willing to put in the time. Since I asked God to break my heart for what breaks his, I have been amazed – and blessed – at how many times He’s equipped me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people – to see them and listen to them – in love, with no judgement.

In the beginning, I was blown over when someone – friend or stranger – shared something deeply personal, but now, it’s happened so many times that when I pray for God to show me who He wants me to reach out to, I already know He will.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

I pray most of all for the Holy Spirit to nudge me, not only for the who, but the when. I also pray that He won’t let me miss the opportunity out of fear or oblivion.

Strangely, He nudges me OFTEN in a Disney waiting line. Strangers to friends in the time it takes to meet a princess.

Today, I find myself thinking I need to offer to pray for someone. Not sure if He’ll prompt me to do it, but if He does, I pray He’ll bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient.”

You are Now Entering the Mission Field

PinkGirl and I see Disney as one of our many mission fields.

Our mission is not to “save” people, but to serve people.

Our prayer is that, through whatever interaction we’ve had with them, someone might be drawn closer to Christ.

It’s not our job, it’s our prayer.

I know we risk ridicule and rejection, be we don’t hide our faith in these interactions. If the natural flow of conversation leads us to share something about our lives with someone, it’s not uncommon that we acknowledge our dependance on God and His influence on our lives.

So, if someone who wasn’t thinking about God and spiritual things before spending time with us, begins or continues to think about God and spiritual things after spending time with us, then our prayer was answered with a big YES.

Even if we never know it.

This is our Disney theme song:

(I love that the person speaking life in this video is a little blonde girl.)

October 25, 2014 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, music, peace love mickey, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, status updates, youtube | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not by Might. Not by Power. But by My Spirit” says the Lord

In my previous blog post, practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum), I talked about practicing the presence of God by pretending Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. I confessed that, despite my sincere intentions to be aware of God’s presence with me throughout my days and my moments, I chronically forgot Jesus was with me. I realized I couldn’t remember on my own.

I needed help.

I was striving – and struggling – and failing – to consistently engage in an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Christ.

Change is difficult, but I’m a firm believer in the old adage “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” I knew that this intimate, living dependent relationship I so desperately wanted wasn’t going to just happen because I wished it.

It requires intention.
It requires discipline.

Intellect says you make time in your life for the things you love.
Reason says that if you want your life to change you’ll have to do something different.

So I had tried intention and discipline. With the best and strongest of intention.

No matter how “hard” I tried, consistency was elusive. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

And then, God reminded me of something Paul said:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
Romans 7:15, 18b

solidarity, brother.

My natural inclination is to try harder. But if Paul couldn’t even do it…

My next inclination is to feel guilty about it. Is that What did Paul did? Continuing to read in Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Romans 8:1, 5, 8-9

Intention is needed, but it is not enough.
Discipline is needed, but it is never going to be enough.

Remembering that Jesus is with me everywhere I go requires a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I could. not. do. it. on my own.

So instead of trying to remember Jesus was with me all day long, I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would remind me that Jesus was with me all day long.

Sounds like semantics, but oh, what a DIFFERENCE.

I already know the Holy Spirit dwells within me because of my relationship with Christ:

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

I can’t remember on my own. I can’t do anything on my own. But the Spirit who dwells within me CAN.

Therefore he told me, “These signify the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD who rules over all.”
Zechariah 4:6

So, I stopped “trying” to remember Jesus was with me everywhere I went and I began praying for the Holy Spirit to remind me, again and again and again, of His presence in my life.

Do I forget to ask the Holy Spirit to help me?

of course.

to be continued…

October 11, 2014 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum)

In The Risk of Discipleship Practices, the second post in this blog series on the difference Between “a Good Christian Life” and Abundant Life in Christ, I talked about Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, and how he practiced the presence of God, no matter where he went or what he was doing.

I decided to try it.

I failed and thats goodI failed.

chronically.

But it was okay. I wasn’t surprised. Brother Lawrence failed too. In trying to practice the presence of God, his pattern was:

practice the presence of God.
forget God.
remember God.
repent
Repeat, Buzz Lightyear style (to infinity, and beyond).

I had read about Brother Lawrence’s failings before I even began, so failure wasn’t unexpected. I wasn’t discouraged. If he couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. I’ve previously quoted what was said of him when he failed, but I’ll repeat it here for convenience:

[When Brother Lawrence] “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God,
‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself;
’tis You must hinder my falling,and mend what is amiss.’
That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

Since “just remembering” wasn’t working for me, I decided to try something a little unorthodox. I decided to pretend Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. He sat next to me at the kitchen table, at my desk, and on my loveseat with me when I read my Bible and wrote in my prayer journal. He leaned on the counter while I cooked dinner and loaded the dishwasher (which reminded me to thank him for providing for us). He sat in the passenger seat of my van (which reminded me to thank him for his mercy and protection) and he stood next to me when I tucked my kids into bed and said prayers with them (which reminded me to thank Him for so.many.things.).

And yes. He even hung out with me in the bathroom.

Imagining Jesus physically present with me began to make me aware that God was listening when I talked. I knew He was listening, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time, I wasn’t conscious of it. When I practiced God’s presence, I was more mindful of my thoughts, words and actions. I imagined His hand on my shoulder, pressing slightly when I began to say something unedifying. I imagined his hand at the small of my back, gently guiding me where He wanted me to go. I found myself speaking less. I found myself listening more. To other people and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

reminder - string on your fingerIn the beginning, this exercise was the equivalent of a spiritual string on my finger. Imagining Jesus physically next to me was a mechanism I used to remind me of God’s presence and movement in my life. I probably could have just as easily set reminder alarms on my phone to bring me back to an awareness of His presence at multiple time during the day.

But as the days passed, the spiritual string began to grow into a foundation of confidence in the promise of Joshua 1:9, that God was actually “with me wherever I go” As I became more and more aware of God’s presence, I found myself relying on Him more and on myself less. I started to see people and situations differently, through God’s greater perspective rather than through my own limited and skewed vantage point.

My chronic problem was the same one Brother Lawrence experienced. I continued to forget Jesus was with me.

I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed help.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

[I assigned this exercise as homework to the participants of a weekly Bible study I lead on discipleship. If you’ve never practiced the presence of God in this way this before, I encourage you to give it a try for one week. Expect to forget God. often. And check back to see what I assigned as the next week’s homework assignment. Here’s a hint: It has something to do with my realization that I couldn’t do it by myself and needed help.]

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

doubt assumptions, ask questions, search for answers.

When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:

1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.

I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:

1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.

(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)

John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:

“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”

To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.

Live wisely make the most of every opportunityWhile I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.

Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”

My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.

My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.

I fail often.

But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)

Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:

1. Discipleship
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.

2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-2321 

b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.

iceberg doubt assumptions ask questions search for answers3. Apologetics
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.

John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.

That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.

Abundant Life in Christ.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Risk of Discipleship Practices.

In The Fallacy of a ‘Good Christian Life’ (the previous post in this series) I concluded with the statement:

“All in all, I spent over 40 years striving to live a good Christian life. Some of that time was before I became a Christian. Sadly, some of that time was after I became a Christian.”

Until October of 2007. That’s when God led me to two books. Sifting through hundreds of books at a rummage sale, I stumbled upon a worn copy of “The Taste of New Wine” by Keith Miller, published in 1965. Around the same time, I discovered the existence of a short, 112 page book called “The Practice of the Presence of God,” which is a compilation of documented conversations and letters written by a 17th century French monk named Brother Lawrence. As I read these two books, God revealed something I had been missing my entire life. I had never noticed I’d missed it because I never knew it even existed.

An intimate, personal relationship with a living God.

As I affirmed in my last post in this series, I had been in a relationship with Christ since I was 15 years old. It’s just that the relationship had boundaries. After reading these two books, I saw those boundaries clearly for the first time.

Keith Miller was a layperson who wrote about how he had decompartmentalized his life and began to live authentically as a follower of Christ. He took down the barriers between his professional life, his church life, his personal life – everywhere he had segmented himself in an effort to appear as the person he was expected to be in each role in his life. Most people would assume that kind of transparency would make others uncomfortable. That he would be ostracized, alienate friends and lose opportunities for career advancement. That people would be offended when he talked about what God was doing and teaching him in his life. Instead, he found that living authentically and transparently opened respectful dialogs and deepened his relationships with the people God placed in his life.

Brother Lawrence Quote time of business does not differ from time of prayerBrother Lawrence worked in the kitchen and, as the title of the book says, he “practiced the presence of God.” All the time. And by doing so, he epitomized 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I had never understood that verse until I read how Brother Lawrence described it:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.”

Keith Miller and Brother Lawrence had a kind of relationship with God that saturated their lives – their days and their moments, regardless of where they went or who they were with. They experienced an acute awareness of the presence of God in their lives, so much so that they felt like they were never alone. They had the kind of faith that fueled a continuous conversation with God as if He was a tangible person in their lives instead of some abstract entity they couldn’t see.

Once I knew that kind of relationship with God was possible, I wanted it.

I wanted it bad.

Since October of 2007, God has been teaching me and molding me into someone who is determined to pursue that kind of intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him. Over the years, I’ve adopted a number of Biblical discipleship practices which help me decompartmentalize my own life and live authentically and transparently, grounded in my intimate relationship with Him.

Through this series, I hope to share those practices with you.

But there’s a risk.

I find myself between a rock and a hard place when trying to describe core discipleship practices in a way people can absorb and carry with them unless I use short descriptors. Which can easily turn into a list. A kind of “Christian to-do list” which could, if we’re not careful, manifest itself into living “a good Christian life.”

Some might even call it a new law. In The Fallacy of a ‘Good Christian Life, the previous post in this series, I said:

“Satan is the master of distraction, getting us to focus on to-do lists and never-do lists instead of on discipleship and relationship with Christ.”

Helping Satan distract people from a relationship with Jesus is the last thing I want to do. I believe the key to preventing a lapse into a routine of checking off these practices on a to-do list lies in the reasons behind the practices, which have to be put BEFORE the descriptors – in both the explaining and in the striving to live out.

Pragmatic CommunionThat said, I’m going to introduce the 9 key Biblical discipleship practices I strive to incorporate into my daily life in my pursuit of an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Christ. These 9 discipleship practices are represented by an acrostic using the word “Pragmatic” and in a greater context, they are the foundation of what I call “Pragmatic Communion.”

Pragmatic is my word. I’ve been using it for nearly 20 years, after I read this definition in an old dictionary:

pragmatic adjective \prag-ˈma-tik\
“concerned with causes and effects or with needs and results rather than with ideas or theories.”

Pragmatic. This word fits me like a glove. I don’t want to think about how something works, I want it to work. In this context, I don’t want to think about how to grow closer to Christ, I want to grow closer to Christ.

Communion can be defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.”

Since October of 2007, I’ve continued to grow in my relationship with Christ through a Pragmatic Communion with Him built on these 9 practices, which I’ll be writing about over the next few months.

Pray
Read (& Study)
Abide
Give
Meet
Accountability (Partners)
Trust
Influence
Commitment

Do I follow these practices all the time?

I wish I could say yes, but no. I don’t.

Because I’m human. And I forget God. People do it all the time. God’s chosen people forgot him. Again and again and again – and I’m no different. Brother Lawrence forgot God, but here’s what was said of him when that happened.

[When Brother Lawrence] “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God,
‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself;
’tis You must hinder my falling,and mend what is amiss.’
That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

That last line is my favorite. He forgot. He repented. He went back. He forgot, He repented. and he went back.

“And he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 23, 2014 Posted by | books, christian living, pragmatic communion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Atheist, I support your right to vote, in full awareness that your feelings about God and religion influence your vote. Respectfully, A Disciple of Jesus Christ

Dear Atheist I support your right to vote Freedom of Religion

September 22, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, christian living, conversations with an atheist, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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