Trying to live like Jesus.



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As part of my studies at the seminary, I am reading through the daily lectionary as prescribed by the Presbyterian Church. This includes one Psalm, one Old Testament reading, one Epistle, and one reading from the Gospels. That's a lot of reading to get done every single morning, but I'm two straight weeks in without missing one, and I'm truthfully loving it. I'm discovering that I'm so scatter brained that if I don't have someone telling me what I should be reading every day, I'm just going to be all over the place.


I've been reading through Matthew 5 and 6 these last few days, which are a part of the Sermon on the Mount. If you've been following this blog with any kind of frequency, or know me as a person, you probably know that these three chapters are my absolute favorites in the scriptures. How can you not love them? They are a collection of Jesus' most famous instructions! If you were to ask Jesus "How should I live my life?" his response would be something very similar to Matthew 5-7. I have read these three chapters about a hundred times even in just the last few years. I even tried my best to memorize these passages at one point.


So why is it that when I'm reading them now, I'm realizing that my life and the life Jesus describes for us are two totally different things?


From something so simple as yelling at people in traffic on my way to the Crowder concert last week (love your enemies I assume covers even Browns fans) to how I pray, and whether I'm making a big show about my faith, I'm finding that there are still areas in my life that need some serious work if I'm going to be living in the Way of Christ.


I'm also reading a book right now for fun (in-between my seminary reading) called The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson (seen rocking an AMAZING Jesus-era beard above). Pastor Ed goes through an entire year of trying to shape his life around the kind of life that Jesus would have lived, and from day one realizes that it's an incredibly hard thing to wrap your mind around. Our culture has changed significantly, but still I think a lot of the struggle is outside of just the cultural challenges. The truth is, Jesus gave us an incredibly difficult prescription for this life.


Now, I also really affirm and believe in Grace. Jesus spells out the way we are to live, but knows already that we don't stand a chance. But still, I find it compelling to do everything in my power to live the way Christ would have me live. I want to be more generous. I want to forgive more. I want to love more. I want to pray in a way that's glorifying to God. I want to give my worries over. I don't at all want to lose my saltiness.


What's the most challenging part of living like Jesus for you?





Seminary Update


Hello friends!

It's been a long time since I've posted. I've been a rather busy bee! Here's what I've been up to:

*Tree Anthem is diligently trying to finish the new CD in time for the deadline we made for ourselves. We're close. We just have a few odds and ends that need to be tied up, and we'll be good to go!

*Veritas is back in fullest of swings. We've been having a lot of fun (at least I think) with the new Zero Theme. We're working through those things which hold the central focus for us in our lives, and what a bad Zero looks like in people. Tonight, we're going to take a look at what our Zero should be, and I'm super pumped about what we've got coming up.

*But the biggest thing that's been going on lately is that I'm back at the seminary. I'm taking a class right now called Spiritual Formation with Dr. Barnes. And it is absolutely blowing my mind! I had been doing the reading for the class before the class even started, so now I'm swinging back through again and reading a second time over, and I love each of the books we're reading (Augustine is a little bit hard to work through, but man, he was brilliant!)

The lectures are amazing too! I've been having a hard time keeping my fingers moving fast enough to keep up with the notes! It's been truly awesome!

I wish I had more time for the J-Blog, but I think at the moment I need to ask for patience and grace while I'm working through Seminary stuff. I'll try to keep you posted on what's going on along the way. Thanks for reading!



My New Monster



Hello friends,


I noticed something while I was at the gym working out yesterday, and I thought I'd share some thoughts here on the J-Blog.


When I was in high school, I took Advanced Placement American History, or APA as we called it. The idea was that you would submit yourself to an incredibly difficult year of learning, followed by a national test, which if you did well on you would be able to opt out of college classes. The test was the source of much stress and disdain from several students, and so our teacher nick named it "The Beast." It sounds ridiculous, but it actually helped get you through the tough year of classes to know that everything you did was one more weapon in your tool belt for when you would attempt to slay the beast. We pictured it with nasty fangs and blood drenched claws, and know that what we were suffering through would help us to slay the Beast made the suffering tolerable.


Last year, I started cycling as a form of fitness. I had always like bike riding, but never really got into the intense all out riding that so many people have come to love over time. I was at dinner with a few friends, when one Travis Bachelder invited me to participate in the MS 150, a 150 mile bike ride from Slippery Rock to Lake Erie. Foolishly, I said yes.


The 150 became my Beast. It was the monster that I had to overcome. At that dinner table, a 150 mile two-day ride seemed impossible. It was going to require a lot of me in terms of training, in terms of mental dedication, in terms of nutrition and eating better. I was going to suffer. But at least I knew that I was going to suffer with a purpose. I was going to slay the monster, and slay the monster I did. I never felt better after a ride than I did when we rolled into Lake Erie, and they handed me the finishers metal. It sounds cheesy, but that metal means a lot to me. It's not just two days of accomplishment, but it's every ounce of the 500 miles and countless hours in the gym that went into training me for that ride.


The 150 happened in the middle of my cycling "season", and I started to notice something interesting towards the end. I was losing my drive to go on. I didn't want to go out on a huge training ride. I had very little desire to go to the gym. When I did go out on a ride, I was seeking easier courses and flatter terrain. Without a monster to slay, I had no reason to suffer, because suffering pointlessly is really no fun at all.


As I was lying in bed the other night, and I saw an article about Gran Fondos. I had never heard of such a thing, but the article made it sound like the next step up from the charity rides that I have been doing so far. It's usually a century ride, or 100 miles in a single day. They are known for their climbs, and usually have competition on the climbs. They are not to be trifled with, yet they come with rest stops. Like the 150 was to me a year ago, this ride seems so very far out of my reach. There's one coming in New York early next season ( and I want to ride it so bad.


It is my new monster.


All of a sudden I can't spend enough time in the gym. I'm already upset that it's raining/getting colder so as to keep me off the bike a bit more. I will let you know when I get crazy enough to wear the jackets and tights and ride in the weather anyway. But this monster is coming, and I must be ready to slay it.


What is your monster? And what happens when people don't have a monster to work towards? Is it in fact true that suffering makes a little bit more sense when we realize it's leading us somewhere?


Food for thought.





Veritas: Some further thoughts on zero.


Greetings friends!

Last night we had the first Veritas of the school year. I love love love love love love love love (get it yet) love love Veritas! It's a lot of fun and energy and excitement and joy, and this year it seemed to have been bubbling up all summer into a night of just sheer worship and excitement.

We kicked off our theme of Veritas:Zero with some introduction into where we're headed in the next few months. For those who weren't there last night, a quick catch up:

In Malawi, our sister church in the town of Zomba has acquired the nickname Zomba Zero. It it thusly named because it was the first thing that was ever built in the town, and everything else in Zomba gets it's identity from the church at zero. Nothing happens outside the relationship it has from the church. Everything is tied to that one thing.

And so we asked last night what our Zero is. What is the one thing in your life that makes all the other parts of your life make sense? Obviously there is a bit of a Sunday School answer that goes with this (JESUS!) (said in an incredibly cheesy voice), but last night we noted that we want to get to the heart of the answer now. The real answer, rather than what you would think the youth pastor wants to hear. What is your zero?

We talked about David, who in Psalm 139:23 said "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." This is a crazy bold statement to make to God. Because before I open up my heart to God, before I allow him to see the messed-up-crazy bits of my life, I'm going to do my best to clean up. I'm going to try to get things in order, sweep up a bit, and try my very best to make it look like I have everything all together.

Of course this is a sham. God knows everything already. We learn in the same Psalm that he knows when we stand up and when we lie down, and how many hairs are on our head, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The truth is there's no detail about our lives that isn't abundantly clear to God.

But I think there's something special in the openness of asking God to search our hearts. I think there's something about knowing that we're holding nothing back, that we're letting God search us freely, and that we may or may not like what he finds.

Because the truth is, when we invite God to search our hearts, he's going to show us exactly what our current zero is. He'll show us exactly the area in our lives from which all the other areas get their meaning. And he's God, so he's not going to be shy about it. If we're open, honest, and ready to do a little introspection, God's going to point out exactly what it is that keeps us from him.

And at the same time, this God that knows everything, sees us at our very very worst, offers us the forgiveness to move forward and the grace to hit the reset button on our zero. This God somehow is both the judge and the jury, but he's also the healer. And so as scary as it might be to open up our hearts and allow God to see what's going on inside, it is required. And thank God for the grace that awaits us on the other side.

MUCH more to come soon!