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
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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?
to be continued…
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 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.
That 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.
Read (& Study)
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.
facebook fragments: 5/31/14 – 6/13/14 (fitness milestones, falling curls, FavoriteSon’s birthday & Magic Kingdom)
Saturday, May 31, 2014
I must admit, I was secretly hoping my personal trainer would forget our appointment today, but now that it’s over, I feel MUCH better having made it through. Today’s milestones include two one minute wall squats, the first while doing 23 bicep curls with 10lb dumbbells and the second while doing 22 hammer curls holding 12 lb dumbbells and three sets of 12 push-ups with two 2 minute forearm plank sandwiched in between the push-ups. Did the first 6 push ups wearing a 12 lb weight vest. (what a difference THAT made!)
Monday, May 26, 2014
“I woke up in America for the love of God.
I woke up in America for something bigger than myself.
More than fireworks and fanfare.
More than a star-spangled banner.
You’re still beautiful America”
(Looking back, these facebook posts just don’t seem like the should have been in the same week.)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Prayer warrior friends, please pray for my mother-in-law. She’s been suffering from severe gastroparesis (inability to digest food) for weeks. Every treatment so far has failed. She’s lost over 15 lbs. This evening she’s sitting in an ER waiting on a bed. (since about 5pm) The two remaining treatment options are either an implanted gastric neurostimulators (“stomach pacemaker”) or a feeding tube. Please pray.
facebook fragments: 5/10/14 – 5/16/14 (friends who avoid conflict & evil teachers who assign food projects)
Sunday, May 11, 2014
I was tagged in a facebook post my my daughter:
“So, I’m watching The Little Mermaid and I caught my mommy quoting some of it. #succes #ilovemymother
Happy Mother’s Day Mommy!”
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
If you have a conflict with someone, consider attempting to resolve it, even if it means facing something you regret or are embarrassed about…unless that relationship is one that you actually don’t want in your life anymore. Avoiding conflict, and ultimately the other person, is a surefire way to allow the relationship to fade from your life.
On the flipside, if a relationship is important to you but the other person is avoiding you to avoid working through the conflict, you may have to respect their decision to transition the relationship from friend to acquaintance…or to “someone that I used to know” status.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Came downstairs to see PinkGirl working on a poster board sized map for a geography project due Monday. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast playing DVD.
Me: “Why are you watching that?”
PinkGirl: “I needed something to watch and not pay complete attention to.”
I was recently part of a discussion about a church supported service project. A number of different ideas were on the table, none of them mine. The project itself wasn’t my priority. They were all good ideas. All needed. All would “do good.”
My concern, what I had been thinking and praying about for over a week prior to this meeting was that whatever service project we decided upon, it would track back to Jesus Christ.
Over the years, I’ve observed and/or been a part of a number of church supported service projects, at a number of churches – very, very few of which led to an open door to share the gospel.
All were good. All were needed. All did “good things.”
But serving those in need without tracking back to Christ is just philanthropy, not Christian mission.
I feel a metaphor coming on.
facebook fragments: 04/26/14 – 05/2/14 (bringing home the mahi, strength training milestones & a new Indo board record)
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Just got a “Fish On” text from my men via the SPOT satellite GPS with latitude and longitude: 28.51040,-80.01917
Wonder how many miles off shore that is…
If I’m plugging in their latitude/longitude into the distance calculator correctly, my guys are 32 miles offshore. This is why my only criteria for a boat purchase was twin engines.
Someone commented: “and a raft, radio and flare gun.:
My reply: “That’s boat paraphernalia. That stuff can be transferred from another boat, including the single engine money pit that was our previous boat. Which died offshore and left us hobbling back for HOURS on a tiny little kicker engine. I do love the GPS system he bought. Subscription is about $100 a year. Well worth it to know exactly where they are. And nice to know when they catch something.”
Another “Fish On” text from the satellite GPS! This time 25 miles out. So they’re headed west, but after two catches, I’m thinking they’re still trolling #bringhomethemahi
Just got a real text from my FavoriteSon: “In the channel. 3 mahi.” Lunch is going to be EXCELLENT tomorrow.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
I love my daughter.
It would appear my workout yesterday was extremely effective.
ibuprofen. stretching. water. protein. maybe epsom salt bath later.
Anything I’m missing?
Little Known Fact #30 on my blog: “I would rather eat a Brussel sprout than a Peep. bleh. It’s like goo with glitter on it.”
The only good peep is a dead peep.