Six Traits to Emulate: (4) Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

[Stanza 1, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”]

It is rare that I don’t hum the tune or think of the lyrics above whenever I give my attention to the attribute of faithfulness. It captures so clearly the nature of God and the depths and direction of his steadfast patience and loving dependability toward his daughters and sons. Our God is faithful.

One of the ways we bear the image in which we were created is to emulate this dependable, constant, and faithful manner. Keeping our word. Acting on our stated convictions. Following through on our promises and commitments. Matching our words to our actions in a whole and integrated way reflects the integrity of our faithful God. We can grow in this area when we fail to take shortcuts endeavoring to keep even the smallest of our promises and honor the most trivial commitment.

May our heads, hearts, and hands commit to being faithful, and may God help us reflect this attribute that he perfectly demonstrates.

One true Promise Keeper, you are the God who foretold of a deliverer and fulfilled it through Jesus’ coming and living among us, through his dying and rising triumphant over sin and death. This day may our lives find their confidence, direction, hope, meaning and commitment in your will and way. This we ask in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 71]


Six Traits to Emulate: (3) Love

When God thinks about you, what do you suppose he feels?

Before you read on, go back and read the opening question again and really answer. It can be a revealing exercise when we answer that surprising question.

There are obviously many different answers, all of them reflective of our own current understanding of and view of God. Our notion about God’s nature and character clearly colors the way we answer the question. All of our answers are valid, but not all of them are equally accurate of God’s true feelings.

God’s feelings about us are the result of the truth that he sees us as beloved daughters and beloved sons. His feelings for us—at the very least—are feelings of deep love. God comes to us as love, in love, for love.

Surrendering to this perfect love offered to us by our deity is the call of us who call ourselves Christian. The duty of a Christ follower is to say yes to love—to surrender to it, trusting God and, out of this place, receiving the love God offers. From this posture, we are able to love.

After we have surrendered to True Love (the One who is love), are we able to love our neighbors (family, friends, coworkers, enemies, clerks, and acquaintances) not merely as an act of obedience (doing the right thing); but as a free and loving act that is an offering of our worship to God. When we have received love; we are freed to reflect unconditioned love to others.

Today may this prayer accompany you:

Lord, you are love itself: grant that we might love you and thus be a blessing!

(Dawn to Dark p. 62)


Six Traits to Emulate: (2) Goodness

 

 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)

I think anyone who has had the opportunity to follow after the Lord for any length of time is able to affirm the statement from Psalm 34. It often doesn’t take long for us to map the fingerprints and evidence of God’s mercy and grace in our everyday lives. One thing we are often able to say is, “God is good.”

The second prayer I ever learned (probably at the age I began talking) started with the words, “God is good.” Often this is where our training about God begins as children or as new Christians. God’s goodness is seen in providing for all people with a sun that shines, rain that waters, and days to live out our lives in places that are not far from his presence and prodding [Act 17:27].

The provision of grace, mercy, and his presence are blessings that are signs of God’s goodness. God calls upon all those who are children of God to receive these blessings, not as something to hoard or wear as badges of honor or privilege but to bless others. God out of goodness blesses us that we might—out of a goodness that reflects our Maker—bless others. Out of goodness, share kindness, forgiveness, gifts, listening ears, edifying words, patience, finances, time, homes, and hearts.

Fountain of life, ever-flowing stream of life, it is through you alone that we are provided with good and perfect gifts. You are the source of all that is good and satisfying. May we learn and prove to be grateful and worthy recipients of that which flows from your throne. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark p. 46]


Six Traits to Emulate: (1) Holiness

 

 

It was one of those light-bulb moments, a paradigm shift, a reordering of my mind map when I first read the words Willard wrote in The Divine Conspiracy. The idea or concept he discusses is what many Christians confuse as the end game of attempting to emulate God: managing our sin. I found this to resonate so deeply with how I had pursued my Christian faith, focusing on what to avoid and resist, and reducing much of my thought and prayer life to focus on my own [and others’] sinful behaviors. As I began to explore this idea more, Willard helped me see holiness as more expansive than sin management.

Holiness goes beyond “thou shall nots” and also embraces a life of affirming and doing new and good things. More importantly, holiness in this more comprehensive view is relational rather than merely ethical. Holiness is a result of drawing near to the One who is holy. As we draw near and abide with our holy God, we then begin to reflect the mission, priorities, character, and behaviors that are associated with him.

Considering holiness as what we exhale when breathing from a deepening relationship with God, how does this change our thinking about our piety? When I answer that question, it changes my thinking from what I need to do to become holy to prioritizing time to draw near and be with God.

Holy God, maker of all, be near.

Lord Jesus, forgiver and friend, hear our prayer.

Holy Spirit, light and life, dwell in us.

Three in one, you are welcome; come be our guest. Amen

[from Dawn to Dark, p. 40]


Youth Worker Training from Barefoot Online

 

 

Here’s a preview of the youth ministry training that Barefoot Ministries offers through an annual subscription to BarefootOnline.com. With easy to use participant guides, you can train your volunteers or student leaders. If you have 1 or 100, you can provide them with the skills and knowledge they need for one low price.

Continue exploring the training by signing up for a FREE 15 day trail of Barefoot Online. http://bit.ly/VbRZbZ


6 Traits to Emulate

 

 

In the last post we considered the question: What does bearing God’s image look like in our lives? In this post I will sketch a response to the question that attempts to be a starting point. The response is not the final or comprehensive word on the topic, merely a jumping-off point to help us begin to fill in the details for ourselves.

When we consider growing into the likeness of Christ, there are some things that are off limits: We can’t become all-knowing or all-powerful or everywhere present. The overlap between ourselves and our creator has limits. That being said, there is still considerable overlap. Here are six traits we might consider as important traits worth emulating in our pursuit of Christ-likeness.

1. Holiness – God expressly calls us to emulate the holiness that is on display as God acts justly, rightly, and with no hint of darkness among us throughout history.

2. Goodness – God’s kindness, generosity, and willingness to put others’ interests before his own is an attribute we can develop and demonstrate.

3. Love – To act from a place motivated by love (rather than out of obligation, subservience, or fear) is what sets Jesus apart; and I believe it should set his followers apart.

4. Faithfulness – God has a perfect track record of keeping promises and providing for his people.   He is dependable, and our challenge is to reflect that integrity and  trustworthiness.

5. Presence – From walking in the cool of the afternoon, to a cloud in front of Israel, to a baby    lying in a manger, God will always be present. We can emulate this trait by growing in our awareness, alertness, and attentiveness to be present in each moment.

6. Missional – God is on the move and at work; God is missional: creating, relating, reforming,    restoring. Our mandate is to stop working on our thing and be about noticing and joining God at work in our midst.


Traits To Emulate

 

 

When I consider the meaning of the term Christian formation, I immediately have a thought of bearing God’s image or growing into the likeness of Jesus. It is what I associate with developing in our maturity as followers of Jesus and becoming more rooted in our faith. The question that often pops into my mind after this thought is: How am I growing more into the likeness of the God who has made us?

In what ways are we to bear the image of God? Where is the overlap between ourselves and the God of the universe in our ability to reflect common traits and character?

While this seems like a simple question, it is a crucial one for each of us to fix in our minds. It is crucial for our ability to pursue Christian formation in a way that moves us toward maturity that matters. It is also a question that we have some clarity on as we raise our children and in our work among God’s people, ensuring they see the meaning and the means of becoming image bearers.

Facing this question today, how would you answer:

  • What does bearing God’s image look like in our lives?
  • What traits do we share with God that we should be emulating and enhancing in our everyday lives?

Routine and Spirituality

 

 

Life around my home and farm requires routine. Routine is foundational to ensuring that everyone gets fed, all are safe, no one escapes, and the humans stay sane. Prior to moving to our current location, I enjoyed spontaneity and a lack of routine. We lived according to a fairly flexible schedule, and although we didn’t avoid routine, it wasn’t part and parcel of everyday living.

That has all changed. Routine is necessary in our current situation. It didn’t get adopted easily, but after eight years of its regular and predictable rhythm, I have become fond of routine. Beyond its efficiency and a pattern providing that nothing or no one is forgotten, there have been some unintended benefits I didn’t anticipate:

  1. Routines and rhythms have a way of spreading into other areas of our lives.
  2. Practicing routines in certain areas of our lives make following new rhythms a bit more natural.
  3. Following a routine can help us be more present to the moment we are in (we quickly notice the new, the unusual, the out of the ordinary).
  4. Routine can provide stability in our lives even if we are not geographically stable, which many have written about as necessary for our spiritual development (in developing awareness, faithfulness, and perseverance).

These four benefits have definite implications to our Christian formation. I encourage you to think through some of the benefits mentioned here (and others not mentioned), and how they may impact our spiritual development and those whom we serve. Take time to discuss this with a friend or group of youth workers or ask some questions, push back, or add to this post in the comments below.


Spirituality and Time

 

 

The calendar is relentless as it flips day by day, month by month, and year by year. Today, a wall calendar can hardly manage our days, now dissected into minute-by-minute increments of appointments, obligations, gatherings, necessities, events. It is at this time of the year that we often evaluate our habits and attempt to make corrections and additions to our lives to increase our effectiveness and efficiency.

We can become enslaved to our calendars and watches, prisoners of our own making, moving from one obligation to the next; scratching off one appointment just in time to make the next (hopefully “on time”). Is this what our lives are about? Counting time? Marking days? Accumulating years?

There is a chronological time (GK, chronos), marked by the face of a clock that counts out our seconds, minutes, and hours. But we know that age is not the only or even best measure of maturity or of time well spent. There is another measure of time that the Greeks referred to as kairos. This was time or a season pregnant with possibility. This was time not so much measured but time attended to; time where we were fully present to the fullness of the Presence.

As we move into a new calendar year, may we mark our time not as something to be managed but as a type of kairos to be aware of. May we make it our prayer to enter the moments of our days fully present to our spouses, families, neighbors, and our God.

“…in the fullness of time (kairos)” [Galatians 4.4]


The Geography of Spirituality

 

 

At the holidays, many of us take to the highways or the skies to make trips back “home.” For many years, this was part of our family’s routine; making trips from where we were living to either my wife’s home or back to my family home. Interesting that we talk about going home.

Many of us live and work many miles from where we grew up. The place where we came of age and spent our developmental years is the space we often think of when we hear the word home.

Something has occurred in my life (maybe it is a matter of age, but I don’t think so) that has us staying put since our family moved to a small farm in western Pennsylvania; we feel like we are home. Where we live, work, and play has become our homeland. There is no longing to keep moving, to make our way back “home;” we have found where we belong.

As I have reflected on what has contributed to this change—this sense of home and feeling of belonging—I have sketched the following thoughts:

  1. Sacred space: Our home has provided a place for me to find quiet, solitude, and space to be with myself, my family, and God.
  2. Sacred place: Our property has helped situate us in a community among people, amidst creation, and in a geographic location where we feel we truly belong.
  3. Sacred ground: Our current calling and location offer a stability that helps us stay put and see it through, with no option to move on or engage the ejection seat. Here we are being formed by the routine and regularity of our familiar surroundings.

We have found that our current geography helps shape us into who God has made us.

“on earth as it is in heaven.”