Saturday, January 31, 2009

Deadly Vipers

I am listening to the audio version of the book "Deadly Vipers: Character Assassins" by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite right now. I've listened to the first three chapters so far. It's really great. The premise is that as a Christian leader, I ought to be living out a life of radical grace, and radical integrity. And there are assassins who try to sneak in and destroy me in the process - such as the assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren, the assassin of essentially lying to yourself, or presenting a false reality so that everything looks good. This book is written for anyone, but it really catches the ear/eye of guys who, like me, really enjoy martial arts movies. The one statement that has already been committed to memory is from Master Po - "The greatest warrior is the one who has conquered himself."

This reminds me of something I read in an Oz Guinness book on doubting - we need to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves. Essentially these two concepts mean the same thing. When we listen to ourselves, or let our minds run wild, we think of all kinds of doubts, fears, lusts, fantasies, and many other things that ruin our integrity, composure, and grace. This is to allow the assassins to come in and kill. But when we begin to talk to ourselves, speaking out loud the things we know - the words of God, our knowledge from past experiences, our determination, our inner spirit begins to roar and drown out the many whisperings of doubt and enticement that lead us astray. We have eyes to see the enemy sneaking in and we turn on him and defeat him before he has a chance to attack.

But, as everyone who has watched a martial arts movie knows, it is a very difficult thing to master yourself, but it is absolutely essential in defeating your enemy. We must first conquer ourselves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good Theology

I am currently taking a semester of Systematic Theology in seminary. Before I got into school, there were some confusing words that all seemed like they meant the same thing to me. I now know the difference and will explain. "Exegesis" - this is essentially where you are figuring out what was originally said in the Bible, to what original audience, and in what historical/cultural context. "Hermeneutics" - this is taking exegesis (the original message) and applying it to a new audience today. "Systematic theology" - this is sort of combining exegesis, hermeneutics, and philosophy and using it to help people understand who God is and develop a Christian worldview. So, the theology part is the goal of the church leader/teacher - to help people develop right ideas of who God is and what a Christian worldview looks like.

I am reading through "No Perfect People Allowed" by John Burke right now. Yesterday I read two chapters that were far and away the two best pieces of theological writing I have read to date. When more time affords, I will be putting up individual posts on each of those chapters. But suffice it to say, that book is on the top of my "Must Read" list. The best part - I've seen John in person, I've exchanged a couple e-mails with him, and I listen to him preach via iTunes. He's a regular guy, down to earth, funny, etc. But he has a heart for God and a wisdom from God that few possess, and that makes him really worth listening to. He is the lead pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, TX. I mention him a lot because I believe when you find good theology in the world, you should point to it. So that's what I'm doing. There are lots of good writers out there who have written good Christian books, but this is really good theology like I haven't encountered many places. What good theology have you encountered lately that you should share with others? If the answer is none, why not?

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Beginnings

I am starting another semester of school today. It promises to be a hard one. I think I'm ready for 16 weeks of Christian Theology though.

A follow-up to my last post on depression. I'm much better now, and was in fact even before I went to bed that night. I was able to get working on my small group lesson for the next day (with the high schoolers) and getting involved in that helped take my mind off of other things. I had a good prayer session at the end of the evening and went to bed in a good state. It never lasts long (at least it hasn't yet), but it happens to us all sometimes.

I guess I never told anyone about one of my secret weapons. It's a Presbyterian Book of Common Worship that I have. I have NO IDEA where I ever got it from, or even when I got it. I've never been to a Presbyterian anything until recently (I go to a men's community Bible study at a Presbyterian church on Thursday mornings). But, one day about 2 years ago, my eye caught it lying on a shelf in my office and I picked it up for the first time ever and began to look through it. I found a series of prayers, divided up by morning prayers and evening prayers, and there's one for each day of the week (so 14 in all). I really like these prayers. They give me a place to start, and things to focus on, and it's a great way not to meander in my prayers too much. They also focus on praying for lots of different people (the government, the lost, the sick, the many others), and the Church on various continents, etc. It's a great reminder to pray for all these different folks. But it's also very eloquent. I love the way some of them are worded - they say just the right things.

I haven't always prayed these every morning and evening, but during the times that I have, I have felt much closer to God. It in a way helps me remember to spend a decent amount of time praying, and remembering what to pray about. We went on a mission trip last year and I had it with me, and I offered to lead morning and evening prayer time. It was a really powerful thing for us that week, and the prayers had huge applications for what we were doing, and even lined up with our daily activities sometimes. It was cool.

So, that was the last thing I did the other evening, was go through my evening prayer in my book of common worship, and it really helped me reconnect with God. My question to you is this - what little insignificant, overlooked, hardly noticed thing has been sitting right in front of you for a long time that you need to pick up and examine for once? It just might change your life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's not always good

Tonight I'm in a bit of a depression. I've got a lot of things weighing down on me. If I spent too much time dwelling on them, they could surround and overtake me. Just got me to thinking that if someone read my blog up until now, it would seem like my life is always on the positive, and always moving forward - like there are no real problems that slow me down. Guess that's cause I write about the good things. But tonight I'm writing about the not so good things.

Transparency. I've heard this word so much in the last 4 months. I think it's a key word. It means not sugar-coating life, being authentic and real. Admitting what's really going on. I want to be more transparent. I get depressed sometimes. I have a great life - great job, great family, great future. But I get depressed sometimes, like tonight. I want to give up sometimes, to just stop caring about the things that are weighing me down. It would be easier that way, or so I think - I don't actually know. I want to go to bed and just sleep it off, and feel better in the morning. But part of me wants to stay up and deal with it - figure things out, get through it.

It's times like these that God strangely seems silent and far away. He's not of course, but this is an area of weakness and Satan and his demons are experts at taking advantage of weakness. I'm not saying people who get depressed are weak. I'm saying it can be a chink in our armor and the enemy guns for it when it's exposed. Every time I try to think about God or talk to Him tonight, it's like my thoughts are immediately cloudy or diverted and it's almost as if I get whisked away before I know what's happening. I KNOW God can help me through this, but it's almost like I can't quite get to Him. Alone, that's what the enemy is pushing for, me to feel alone, even though I'm not. But it feels like it, and alone is a heavy place to be. It weighs down and doesn't let up.

I'm not going to keep writing on here until I "work things out," but I know I eventually will. My depression is usually short lived. But I just wanted to say to everyone out there, this is who I am. I have a good relationship with Jesus, but it's not always good in my life. Just bein real.