Monday, December 15, 2008
So, my brother's name isn't Harry, I don't live in Bedford falls, my wife doesn't sing about the "buffalo gals," and I don't have an old man potter that is trying to destroy me - but I'm totally having a George Bailey kind of day. I have these kind of days every now and again, which is why of all the Christmas movies, I think "It's a Wonderful Life" is indeed my favorite.
Before you go looking for me on bridges, or go looking for a Honda Civic wrapped around a tree, hear me out.
George Bailey, in "It's a Wonderful Life," becomes so consumed with his circumstances, and the circumstances of others, that he goes into an existential funk. I know this all too well. And I can also relate to that feeling of resignation he feels when he utters that thought that many of us have felt when we've come that place . Maybe you've never wished you had never been born, but I know that I've had those days when I've uttered things like "I wish I would have become an accountant." numbers don't talk back, get pregnant, cut themselves, blow you off for a football game, or stop coming to your program because things aren't as fun as they were the year before. But, the truth is, you feel this as you try to minister to your friends, your family, and your co-workers.
Ministry, like life, is not for the faint of heart. And as you try to till the soil of a person's heart, you are subjected to their mess. Your vulnerability is preyed on - and it hurts. And, in the process you have those days where you are ready to give up.
God sends an angel to George Bailey to show him that at his breaking point, God is doing amazing things through him. Some days, I could really use that angel, because even though I know in my heart that how i'm trying to help someone is the right thing tio do; my head feels totally defeated when they say no, or they walk away entirely. Though my skin is thicker than it was when I got my first, "here's ten reasons why you stink" e-mail, the sting of rejection still sends me down a trail of self-doubt, frustration, and feelings of failure.
This Christmas season, I'm grateful for Jesus' vulnerabilty. His love for a stiff-necked, stubborn, resistent people is a great reminder to me of what true ministry looks like. In the end, the "wonderfulness" of life isn't found in all the perfect moments, but in all the little ways we impact one another as we walk with one another in beauty and in pain.
My Mouth's bleedin, bert!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
1. The Colts have put together a nice little run here, and normalcy seems to have returned to the universe. Is the hole they dug themselves (wild card, and road playoff games in potential enclement weather sites in Jan) too deep for a Super Bowl Run in what has been rumored to be Tony Dungy's Final year?
2. I was reminded this week that you NEED to take time for yourself. If painting a room purple was good for my soul, then I imagine that I REALLY needed a break. So, cheers to purple rooms. It was odd that this same day, I read Matthew 14-15 - where Jesus, in both chapters, practices solitude in the midst of craziness. If it's good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for me.
3. A lot of people freaked out the past few weeks about the elections. While I understand a Christian's innate desire to have a man of God, or, a woman of God, in a position of political power in our country, I've just been reminded lately that my ultimate allegiance is to Jesus - and I am called to allegiance regardless of whether a donkey, elephant, frog, vampire, or talking horse is calling the shots in America. I must never put too much of my trust in government - even if it run by good men. Never forget that the gospel is PROSPERING in some countries where the truth of Jesus is illegal to openly talk about. Never forget that even godly men hurt their people with their decision making at times (solomon, david). So, while I am not so presumptuous to assume that what I need in my life is persecution; I am just saying that EVERY season of our countries history is a season for Christians to set an example of Jesus - regardless of who is in office. So, let's do it.
4. Lastly, I was watching "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" on the Travel Channel - which took place in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee...and it reminded that a certain someone with a bald head is going there soon. Keehner, make some room in your bag for coffee - I could use some. Interesting tidbit: there are some people groups in Ethiopia that put butter in coffee. If any of you bust out the Land O Lakes tomorrow morning, let me know how that goes for you...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In a couple of weeks we are dealing with the topic of pornography through a mens event called "Porn and Pancakes." It's a mens breakfast designed to help men talk about a struggle, that, frankly, Christians often refuse to address as a legitimate struggle -it's one that often gets swept under the rug, despite the fact that Porn is a HUGE industry, grossing more $ than all of our major sports leagues COMBINED! It is our attempt to raise up generations that will stop destroying their marraiges, their families, and themselves with porn addiction. Someone apparently doesn't like that message, or, at the very least, the nature of it. Our sign has been take down twice now - once thrown away in our dumpster - this time taken off our property. Rather than express a concern, or even tell us why they disagree, this person or persons is content to get us more media attention by vandalizing and stealing. To that, I suppose we should say, "thanks for the attention you're getting us."
I have no idea who is doing this - but my guess is that this is the attempt of a person either connected to NCC or who claims Christ, that doesn't think this message is appropriate for churches to speak on. Perhaps its' because we've got a daycare - to that, I saw, I would love to have a group of people who will stand up for my child - my daughter - and protect her from future objectification by the way that porn rapes the minds of those who watch it. It is our responsibility as a church to protect those who cannot protect themselves - even if it means getting flack. And I will gladly put my reputation at stake for this cause. For further reading on the effectivenesss of "protest evangelism," please read Bob Briner's Roaring Lambs.
....the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, vandalism, theft, peace, kindness....oh, wait...maybe not.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The opening of Dunkin Donuts
Some Mongolian with a great student and their family/friends
A Great Sunday night - on and off the stage
A new Brave Saint Saturn CD - which is great
A new Anberlin CD -which is also great
A 10 win soccer season
A friend moving back to the area with her uber-cool husband
A little mini-trip to Joplin - featuring some bob evans with Molesky
and some quality time with my girls.
Yes friends, life is pretty stellar in the land of Ancarrow right now, and it's good to step back and be thankful for mundane little things. May you do the same.
At the same time, I'm reminded that there are hurting people all around me. Ive really been challenged to go to the Father on behalf of these people. The ability to do so reminds me of the greatest blessing of all - the ability to go to Father on behalf of the hurting people around me - knowing that he will hear my cries, requests, thank-yous, and pleas.
May we not take the torn curtain for granted...
Hebrews 4:16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Things are okay. My stress level is pushed to a near boiling - point. I need a couple of days off - and that'll be at the end of the month/first part of next month with a couple of days in Joplin. The weird thing is - despite feeling so fried - I'm really ready for the year to start. I'm sick of planning things - ready to get moving on the year. I think it will be a good one.
I watched the Colts eek one out today. Peyton Manning is amazing...period.
The Soccer team is 7-3 now. It's been a fun year. No attitudes...very teachable. Lots of good discussion, on and off the field. I've gotten quite nostalgic the past few days, in light of soccer. I even pulled up the herald-mail website to see how Smithsburg soccer is doing. Turns out even better than we used to be...pretty sweet. Good for the old alma-mater. I often re-think those days. What if I hadn't gotten so down on myself? What if I had just played the game and enjoyed pushing myself? Would I have quit in college, even though I could have played?
The girls are doing okay. Both Amber and Emery have had spells of sickness as of late. It's a wonder I've stayed decently healthy, considering I'm barely sleeping on top of having two sick people in the house. But baby #2 is moving along healthily, so, despite illness, these are good times. Emery got quite upset the other day that she could not see her brother or sister right then....she threw a huge fit. Pretty amusing, with the exception of the screaming, crying, and basically every other part of throwing a fit outside of its original purpose.
Brave Saint Saturn's new CD released tuesday. Reese Roper, my friends...the end.
Monday, August 18, 2008
The essence of the conversation was this: does free-will impede ability to have just one pre-determined plan? If there is only one plan for us - then does where we go to college really matter - after all, we'll get to that place anyway, if it's God's pre-determined will.
I get sick of arguing about predestination - so I took the conversation this way - if you erased the pain that has led you to this point, where you are today, that is, where would you be? would you be in the same place? What would change? Think a la Eternal Sunshine without the bad kate winslet dye job.
Would I be in Indy if I hadn't gotten my heart ripped out of my behind? Would I have ever met my wonderful Mrs. Ancarrow if I had transferred my senior year of college? Would the Orioles still stink if that obnoxious 12 year old kid hadn't robbed Tony Tarasco of a sure -fire out in the 1996 playoff series between the O's and the Yanks? Discuss, Discuss...
I love these kinds of conversations when they're not rooted out of trying to make yourself sound smarter than everyone else.
In closing - some other random fun
1. does anyone know where the Dunkin Donuts is going to be in Avon, and when?
2. My prediction is that the ravens aren't going to be as bad as everyone says this year -
because we've gone KYLE BOLLER (please note sarcasm). It's a sad day when I'm begging
coach to play a Buckeye or a blue hen. Go Delaware! We'll see. I want to be wrong so badly!
3. You still need Anorexia and Nervosa by Showbread.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Rounding out my top 3:
2. Vonage Commerical with the annoying girl
3. Anything endorsed by Kirstie Alley
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Do we as a Church rely on Jesus to clean up our messes, and thus complete his work in us? Do we trust Him to complete the work He started with an imperfect group of people?
Our job is to partner with Jesus in his redemptive work, rather than hinder it. As I recently heard it said, you can look at your church as a hotel, or a home. If it is a hotel, you make a mess, complain about the messes you didn't make, eat the food, and leave it all for someone else to clean up. If it is your home, you do whatever you can to fix, clean, wash, and take care of the blemishes, even if it means getting your hands extraordinarily dirty.
May we do the latter...
Saturday, June 21, 2008
1. 5 yr. Anniversary with the Mrs. - fun times - lots of inside jokes here... like when we heard an amazing pianist play jazz karaoke.
2. I love Coffee - and so does Seattle. I never did fine one that I would say totally surpasses Starbucks - but Tully's Blueberry Mocha was pretty amazing.
3. Seeing Showbread live - wow. If you haven't gotten Anorexia and Nervosa yet, then you need to. 4. Mars Hill Church - for a couple of reasons.
A. I love mark driscoll
b. A dude in front of me fell asleep during sermon - and I'm just glad that happens to mark
C. Their LED lights on the wall were very cool - and I want them.
Know Sweat Speaking Gig - Cincinnati, OH
1. I love what the CIY team is doing with Know Sweat . Very cool. Matt Gilchist - job well done.
2. Eating Skyline Chili three times that week
3. Time with Students - they were very cool to me - I do hope it was good for me to be with them.
4. Nathan Shaver - one of my favorite worship leaders - and I'm not just saying that because he's a friend.
Other random stuff:
1. The X Awards were fun tonight - hope the sponsors felt appreciated
2. Emery has been awesome lately. I can't believe she's two. She's getting pretty human now. I knwo that sounds werid, but the other day, for her birthday, we took her to Moe's. She celebrated - she was so pumped up. It was awesome.
3. I got to see Demon Hunter the other night - pretty good event.
4. Tina Fey is on a rerun of SNL. I love it.
I need to work on stuff now. Just wanted to check in...
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
What was weird to me about the whole affair wasn't just that she was a former student - we've done plenty of those. It was a few things. First, Casey has always been incredibly special to us. I wanted the day to be so beautiful for her; ordinarily, I wouldn't care. I do my part, eat a piece of cake, pass out my hugs, and enjoy watching someone get married. Because of that, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job , and to help take care of all the little details, as if I had a vested ineterest in them acutally happening. Because of that interest, I refused to open the event with "Mar-wij is wat bwings us togefer today..." I did't want to get the crowd too riled.
For those who were wondering - I held it together all day long. No tears - in fact, not even the THOUGHT of tears until the end of the night. I had returned to the church to let Casey get the rest of their stuff - plus, change out of her wedding dress. it was in those final moments - the final passing of the baton - perhaps the last of the "Casey talking to Scott at the Church" moments that everything hit me. So, Casey got her wish - she got to see me cry.
Congrats Dave and Casey, we look forward to this next chapter.
Friday, May 9, 2008
A variety of feelings, thoughts, and emotions immediately dance in my head when I have this conversation. It is a feeling of inadequancy (after all, I work in a church - FULL TIME), anger, hurt, sadness, etc - but overwhelming all of these feelings is - "is this right - is this biblical?" While I could argue that the WAY that most people leave - gossip, rumor, anger, slander - is not biblical, what about the concept itself?
In the midst of writing on the concept - I stumbled upon an article from one of my favorite sources - relevant magazine. I love this guy's points. Check it out.
I would say that the first fundamental reason for this issue comes in how we view church. If we view church as a consumer, then church has to give me something to keep my business. The sermons have to fit me, I have to like the people, and worship must be in a way that I can at least tolerate. When the church fails to provide what I want, I "consume" some where else. But is that what Christ had in mind for the church? If you look at Ephesians 5, Paul makes the connection that marriage is like the relationship between Christ and the church. Couple that with the talk that the local church is a body (1 cor 12), and that Christians should pursue unity (eph 4), then we must understand that sheer business principles cannot define a good relationship with a church. Infact, the only consumer in the church, even in a seeker sensitive one, should be God. However, that is often not the case, and is a large reason why people ultimately leave a chruch for another at some point in time.
What if we view the church as a marriage, or a relationship, between a group of people? Surely, this would change how we viewed leaving or staying (or it should - as a Christian). Perhaps we would wrestle longer, have more conversations about the process, or do what we can to "save the relationship" when the honeymoon ends. This doesn't mean there would never be separtion, leaving, disagreement, or even divorce, but perhaps we wouldn't do it so often.
Where I see this play out the most is after 3-4 years after someone comes to Christ. The newness of the church wears off, the hope of Christ is taken for granted, a new staff person has replaced someone that another person loved. No one brings us cookies anymore - in fact, we're now in charge of making sure they get delivered. We're not getting invited to lunch anymore - in fact, our pastor tells us to be the ones inviting.
All the while, we're in a spiritual rut. Something has gone wrong - and we're frustrated because no one seems to have the quick fix anymore. We begin to look at this place, or that place - or the mega place - because they certainly will have the cure. While often this requires a deeper dedication to our own personal disciplines, often it is the church who gets blamed for "not feeding me enough."
We look down the street and we ___________ church. We say, "hey, this church has a starbucks, great preaching, a jacuzzi, and tons of hot singles! We think our answer is there - and we jump.
The equivalent to this in a relationship, even with a friend is, "hey, I know you're my friend and all, but I know you well enough to see your problems and flaws - and I don't that other person well enough to anything more than just have some fun once in a while." In my marriage, this is the equivalent of trading my wife in for a 'younger model.'
Many times, especially here on "megachurch lane," we as believers are prone to look at someone else's series, someone else's toys, and say, "they're better off than me." Little do we know that there are many in those seats saying, "maybe I need to look at this place."
And in the end, we have a revolving door of Christians who spend their time church - hopping and shopping, rather than taking seriously Jesus' charge to "seek and save the lost."
We need shots in the arm. Retreat experiences. Date nights, if you will. Should a church provide such an opportunity? Yes, I think so. these are times that renew intimacy, and remind why you love that person to begin with. The newness of dating does wear off. The newness of a preacher does get old. You need that time of refreshment, and many times, when you are a weekly, plugged in, serving church member, that happens in really weird times or on a retreat. But may we as a body of christians remember perhaps one of Satan's greater lies - the one that says, " the grass is greener on the other side."
I think there are scriptural reasons for leaving a place, and, in the end, I think there are some unbiblical reasons that are okay too. I just wish there was a deeper dedication to trying to make things work out in the meantime.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tonight I took a group of High School students to see "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." The film is a documentary hosted by the 80's favorite teacher, Mr Ben Stein (Bueller, Bueller, anyone, anyone?). The Documentary deals with the idea that Intelligent Design is not an accepted worldview in modern science, and how those who hold to even the inkling that intelligent design exists are other blacklisted in terms of tenure, or are discredited as believers in fairy tales.
I have to admit, I found the film intriguing. Two thumbs up, for sure! Of course, upon visiting what the critics on rottentmatoes.com thought, I was not shocked to see only an 11% positive rating. Media bias anyone? I have seen higher marks for such cinematic gems as Herbie: Fully Loaded and Crossroads. Media bias, anyone?
I like the questions that Mr. Stein raises regarding the connection between Darwinism and Nilhilism. If we are the result of random chance, why hold to morals? Why value anyone or anything? Everyone should get as much as they can, hurt whoever they want, and have no guilt or shame about the process in which they commit such acts. While I understand the dangerous jump the film makes in connecting the Nazi's to Darwin's theory, the idea is a perfect example of the result of society where there is no absolute truth.
See the film...support the film...and learn why you believe what you believe.
Some good resources to help you along the way can be found at:
1 Peter 3:15-16 -
15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Yesterday proved to be one of the most challenging day 1's of any mission trip I've been on. We split our team into three teams -
In the morning, one team sorted food at a local food bank - another served a meal at a local homeless shelter. The third team loaded 200 dozen dunkin donuts into the van and delivered them to local business in White Marsh and Dundalk - just as a random act of kindness from NCC. While 90% of business took them - some were quite puzzled that there was no catch, no sales pitch, and no conversion attempt. only love. CCC got a lot of compliments from people in white marsh, many of whom belonged to business that had received this treatment before. The 10% who didn't accept certainly showed the wall that many have toward the chuch in general in MD. Some were polite - some kicked our students out - some just wouldn't take the donuts. Did they think it was laced with the Jesus LSD? Many of our students, especially in dundalk, realized, "we're not in mega-church land anymore."
The two non-donut teams spent part of the afternoon taking prayer walks through neighborhoods praying for a variety of things .
All three teams ended day three with a process called assessment. As CCC looks to plant in the Dundalk area, one of the steps is to talk to people from the area and determine their physical needs. This helps establish the type of church, a targeted demogrpahic, etc.
Dundalk is a tough town - it's in the city of Baltimore, but not the "inner city." Some of it is quite economically challenged - and some of it is just downright hard. There's subsidized housing, and a large quantity of senior citizens, many of whom are unable, or now too afraid to get out much. There's crime - lots of bars, and, according to residents, much drugs and crime.
As our high schoolers went door to door, asking neighborhoods in Dundalk about their needs, they were treated a variety of ways. Almost every student was rejected/slammed/told to go away at least one time. one was told to leave before a dog was released on him - another was told that they were not allowed to talk to christians, as they were Jehovah's Witnesses. One was allowed to talk, but only from the sidewalk. Each student had a bright spot or two as well.
This treatment, despite the good memories of the day, really took a toll on our students. Most had never been hated for their faith. At group time that night, I really worried for my team.
tuesday brought a fresh day - it also brought warmth and sunshine. It didn't however, bring a renewed interest in assessing
In the morning - 200 dozen more donuts delievered . Another homeless shelter, and a different team to the food bank. A great morning - and great response on the donuts.
The afternoon's sunnyness made for great prayer walking.
As we assessed, many students noticed a marked difference in the people. maybe it was that they weren't shocked anymore after their first day. Maybe it was the sunshine that brought many people outside on their porches, so knocking on the door isn't as necessary. I don't know for sure, but I know that today went 100 times better than the day before. Tonight, at group, the team seemed energized, pumped, and ready to go back out tomorrow.
As I close tonight, having only really given play by play without the color commentary, I must say that I'm excited to see how God works tomorrow. We've seen him here in so many ways and through so many people - christian and non.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I did this is in Jamaica last year in a little green notebook. This year, I'm going to attempt to blog our journey.
We got to Baltimore from Indy in 11 hours 30 minutes. No major drama - just road trip weariness. I exposed our students to the wonders of the Sheetz gas station. Good times were had by all, of course.
When we got to Baltimore, we found out that our hotel, which we booked almost a year ago and reconfirmed a month ago, lost our reservation. We got sent next door, which is fine, and a nicer hotel - but not cheaper. We have some battling to do there, but that's for tomorrow.
last night, we strolled around a mall - getting the 11 hour trip out of our system. I had a crabcake - fresh and glorious.
This morning we went to Community Christian. For most of our students, I think this was their first exposure to church outside the Bible belt. Very cool service - and we had great dialog about it later today at dinner.
I had a brief conversation with Amber and Emery today. Emery said, "I love you" for the first time over the phone to me. That was very cool, and helped keep me from getting frustrated by the overabundance of downtime we seemed to have in the afternoon.
We ate an amazing Chinese dinner at a place called Chopstix. Perhaps the best General Tso's I've ever had. Some students got sushi - and they said it was the best they've had. One of our students accidentally poured her team all over herself. It was the most I've ever seen a spill resemble someone actually peeing their pants. Hilarious.
After dinner, we held an orientation for the next three days of the trip with the leadership of CCC. I have to say, there's a mixture of excitement and nerves in our team. While the next three days promises to be beneficial to the work of CCC, the idea of just not knowing what conversations, what situations, etc. we're about to get to is just kind of our weird .One of our projects is to help assess the need for a church plant in Dundalk by going door to door and talking to folks about what they feel the greatest needs of the area are. The idea of having a door slammed in their faces is the secret fear of each of us, I think. This seems to be the part that may perhaps be the most stretching of the things we will do.
I was feeling all kinds of deep and reflective about what God has in mind for me over the next few years - then I backed into a fire hydrant. That's a mood killer. Now I'm just ticked. Thank God for full-coverage.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I forced myself to slow down today. I find myself today experiencing symptoms that require a detox time. I have been doing ministry now long enough to know the signs...
- I second guess myself
- I get overly frustrated about my weaknesses
- I try way too hard to fix things
- I get upset at what I can't change about other people
- I resent little things
- and my typical sarcastic wit turns to dark cynicism.
I know at least one person that would blame the "rock and roll" I've been listening to (see, told you it turns cynical). But I don't think that's it.
These are all signs of spiritual starvation.
One student, completely unpromopted, lovingly told me last night that I need a vacation. They're right...but I don't need it in a physical sense - I need a spiritual one. I need to be better disciplined in reading, meditation, and waiting on the Lord. I need to return to the silence, where I find my food, my spiritual sustinence, and my hope.
There are times when, because of circumstances, exhaustion, laziness, stress, etc, we neglect to do the things that got us to a connecting place with God. One day becomes two, which turns to four, then six. Before we know it, we're running on empty...because everyone around us has continued to feed on us. We become a restaurant without food.
I have noticed that this is where people start blaming the church they are going to at the time. "It must be the preacher," or "there's nothing here for people who are like me." While I DO believe there are times to leave churches, or times when the preaching is holding back the walk of the believer, I would say, at least 80% of the time, it's not the preachers fault. It is, instead, that we are expecting human people to give us what only God can. Only God can truly be God. Only God can continually offer hope without ceasing. Only God has sustain 100% of the time.
Maybe it's becasue I can't always be in church (weird, since I work in one, I know), but I have decided that it is my responsibilty, not Don Keehner's, or anyone else's, to sustain my relationship with God. These men are there to enhance, encourage, and bring skin to Jesus' words at times when I am struggling....but they are not here to live my life for me.
It's time for me to take a walk, and to spend some time with my Father. We've had lots of brief conversations lately, but its's been a while since we really sat and talked.
May you do so as well.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I post the article's origin so that you know that these thoughts are not merely the thoughts of a student minister who just returned from a long retreat and despite already being exhausted, didn't get any sleep last night.
We are a drive-thru, convenience-driven society. When we want to lose weight, we count points, take pills, or crash diet. Many times, our garages are full of workout equipment that now operate as great storage racks. When we want to buy something, we don't save our money, we pay later at 18% interest, $10 at a time. And, ultimately, we pay the price for our laziness.
I have been serious about my pursuit of following Jesus for almost 13 years now. I have spent almost six of those years in "full time ministry." It is my observation that we practice "drive thru" Christianity often. Christians have the tendency treat their faith the same way they treat their finances or weight - with a quick fix or Jesus -crash diet.
Maybe I'm still embittered by the "Prayer of Jabez" breakup speech I got a few years ago, or because I get totally annoyed when my church inbox is full of catalogs that market Jesus like he's Michael Jackson. Or, maybe I know myself too well, and I admit that the overachiever in me has always sought the physical evidence that Jesus is pleased with me; i.e., financial blessings, more opportunities, or constant affirmation from people.
Where do we see in the scriptures that God wants us to be financially blessed, drive a sports car, have our dream job, and have 2.3 kids? There are times when our "gospel," or the gospel of the some of the Christian bookstore bestsellers, lean closer toward the "American Dream" than God's desire for our hearts. There is a danger in reducing the creator of the universe to a God who speaks in clever acronyms so that we get it, or a God who is fine with my lack of generosity, so long as I support a missionary or do charity work from time to time.
We must remember, friends, that the name of Jesus has been abused for all kinds of personal gains - and we must make sure that our flesh is not allowing us to do justify doing the same. I have been guilty of reducing my spiritual walk to the standard "I have spent 15 minutes praying, 15 minutes reading, said less than this many bad words, and listened to my "INSERT CHRISTIAN CD HERE" at least 3 times today Christianity." While any of the aforementioned things can be greatly beneficial to a believer's walk with Christ, they can all be accomplished in checklist form by someone who has no real love for Jesus, but a love for feeling good about themselves.
In the articles I read, Schwab brilliantly writes..." the most difficult thing about Christianity is that it doesn’t have anything to do with me. What I mean is that we are called to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves. We give our lives in humility and servitude to Jesus, and he in return gives us eternal life and salvation, along with a life of joy and peace as long as we remain in him. But along the way we must put others before ourselves. And we will find meaning and contentment not in self-actualization, but in giving ourselves in submission to him and to one another in fellowship.These are all fundamental concepts to a Biblical approach to living. Jesus never said “Follow this simple formula to unlock your potential within.” If my desire in coming to God is motivated by what he can give me, or how he can make me feel, then my ultimate desire is self-focused, rather than Christ-focused. If I treat God as the divine genie, or the eternal “life-improver,” then I think I have missed the point entirely. And if I am a teacher throwing in scripture verses and the teachings of Christ to subtly justify faith as a marketing ploy to those who are looking to feel better about themselves, then I am in danger of leading many astray. "
In following Christ, I experience the ultimate paradox: that is, I find life, a GREAT, BETTER LIFE, when I lose my own. However, I ONLY find this "better life" in following Christ wherever he leads me, not in checking off a series of boxes that define a "good Christian."
In my mind, pain equals the perseverance that comes from discipline and day to day faithfulness. Be cautious when someone promises that faith is a means to a better life. They may be subtly trying to give you a message that may make you feel better, while neglecting what you truly need…to be broken and molded into a devoted servant, not a well-adjusted overachiever.