how far we’ve come

Category : bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, reader comments, taking action

It’s hard to believe that R3 is entering its 4th year!  (well technically “calendar year,” R3’s anniversary is in a few months).  I never dreamed that I had enough to say to generate three posts a week.  I find it amazing that I can do that.  But that’s not the only thing that makes this 4th year so remarkable.  It wasn’t that long ago that blogging didn’t exist.

Think about that one for a while!

The internet has been a great technology for growing people’s relationships with God.  There is no other technology that allows someone to write in their spare time in Kansas but influence Christians in Australia, Indonesia, or even China.  Or someone from Africa to influence people in Europe or America.  The internet has had a profound impact on living a life of faith.

While religion blogging is dominated by several “big name” bloggers there has been more than enough room for smaller writers to develop a community.  There are so many talented writers that I could spend an entire day simply surfing the internet reading.  Now if only someone would pay me to do that…

But blogging isn’t the only change.

How we study the Bible has also changed.  I can easily pull up Bible verses and do keyword searches online.  If you own an iPhone you can download Bible apps and get the same thing.  Never before has the Bible been so easy to access.  While I still read a paper version of the Bible every day, I rarely use it for quick searches or to look things up.  It just takes too long.  Digital is the way to go.

And still there is more change.

Even the way we do Bible studies is different.  There are online studies on hundreds of topics.  Churches are giving away much of their own materials away for free.  And now there are “social sites” popping up like EXAMEN.me.  All dedicated to providing high quality Bible studies and devotionals.

There has never been a better time to learn about living out a life of faith.  There has never been a time where so much has been available to so many.  And I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds.

As we go into the New Year, here is my challenge to you: find a new way to study the Bible and follow it for the next 30 days.  As you go through it, come back here and let us know how it’s going (I’m opening up the comments).  Did it work?  Was it a disaster?  Did it revolutionize your life?

an uneventful christmas

Category : God, faith, living a life of faith, sharing faith

Christmas at the R3 household was surprisingly uneventful.  And that’s just the way I wanted it.

I admit, I am not exactly a “sit still” kind of guy.  In fact, I believe I am genetically incapable of sitting still.  Fidgeting is my spiritual gift.  But over the years I’ve really tried to learn to appreciate the “moment” instead of dreaming about some future event.  This does not come easily to me.  I have always been fascinated by ideas.  I’m drawn into dreams.  The pull of a better future is strong.  Sometimes I just find the present to be a bit too dull for my liking.  (Unless, of course I am talking to you, and then it’s really, really, exciting.)

As I’ve progressed in my relationship with God I’ve realized that much of what grows our faith is living in the moment.  The fact that we can’t control the future and we can’t change the past means we can only act in the present.  That’s where we live out a life of faith.

But that knowledge doesn’t always mean I follow through!

That’s why this year was so special.  I was able to focus on the present.  To enjoy it.  And for that I am grateful.

I hope that as you go through this crazy time of year, you can take time to focus on the present.

an R3 kind of Christmas

Category : choice, different, humor, just for fun, living a life of faith

As we begin to wind down 2009, I want the last few posts of the year to be a bit light-hearted. Life is stressful. We all tend to work long hours. We have hundreds (seemingly) of things going on all the time. We rarely get days off (if you’re lucky enough to have a job).

Everything seems to move at warp speed.

So for this Christmas I encourage you to spend quality, focused, time with your friends and family. Enjoy their company and the community you have. Use this as an opportunity to show what it means to live a life of faith, not by preaching Bible verses, but by being there when they need you.

In the meantime, check out this video. I think we can all wish this was our house growing up…

the nines leadership network: final thoughts

Category : faith, feeding my brain, living a life of faith, sharing faith, taking action

……….

It’s been a couple days since The Nines leadership event / conference / webcast.   In that time I’ve heard a few people say sitting through the conference was a bit like drinking from the business end of a fire hose.  And I think that’s a fair description.  70 speakers in 9 minute chunks is a lot of information.  What’s more is that many of these speakers were world-class teachers.  Meaning they know who to give you relevant, useful, important information.  I personally felt I needed to write down everything that was said.  (I didn’t.  I just felt like I should.)

So now I find myself thinking about how I want The Nines to impact me.

There is simply too much information for me to use all of it.  There’s too much information for me to even process.  But what unique concepts can I bring out of it?

For me I think there are two major points.

  1. Everyone needs rest.  This theme has been a cornerstone of conversation for R3 for the last few weeks.   It’s no wonder that it resonated with me at the conference.  God built a Sabbath into our lives for a reason.  Maybe we should use it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be different.  Sometimes I hesitate to take a chance because I think “maybe I’m too young to take that leadership role” or “I don’t have a degree in theology.”  But those are just excuses.  We saw a cast of speakers from all ages, all backgrounds, and all “looks.”  We don’t need to belong to a special club to teach or to follow where God leads.

The Nines reminded me once again that it’s important to be exposed to a vibrant community of faith.  It’s easy to forget, in our highly secularized world, that God is moving powerfully all around us.  We can easily believe that we are a lone island.  Yet God was moving in so many stories.  How can we realistically believe that he’s forgotten or abandoned us?

The Nines was an amazing experience.  I wish that I could have seen all 70 speakers.  But I am thrilled to have been exposed to the ones I was.  I think The Nines is going to have a profound impact on my life, on R3, and my community.  To me that’s the definition of success.

The only thing that remains is to go and do something about it.  Learning to live out a life of faith is one part knowledge (that’s the learning component), but there’s also the action piece.  We need to live out what we know.  That’s as true for me as it is for you.

I plan on living out the lessons I’ve learned from The Nines.  How about you?

an R3 update

Category : R3, choice, different, living a life of faith

……..

This is shaping up to be a very busy week for me.  Which means posting will be light.  I admit, I am tempted to find a way to get the usual 3 posts up this week.  But I’m also reminded of what I wrote a few weeks ago.  Everyone needs time off.  Including a write-a-holic like myself!

As much as I love writing, if I want to produce my best work, I need to be conscious of how I am spending my time.  And not surprisingly it takes a lot of time, creativity, and effort to come up with three interesting, and hopefully insightful, posts per week for R3.  I am convinced this is why God created a Sabbath.  Sabbath’s aren’t designed as punishment or ways to prevent us from going  shopping or eating at Chick-fil-a .  It was so we could actually rest and recover.  We all need that.

But before I go, I do have some updates for you guys.

  1. There are changes coming to R3.  I’ve been hinting at this for a few months now.  But I am in the finishing stages of updating R3’s theme.  I think the changes will bring a lot of new functionality to R3 and hopefully encourage us all to better live out lives of faith.
  2. I have a couple of job interviews in the very near future.  Being unemployed has been unbelievably trying, but I have grown more in the last 9 months than at perhaps any other point in my life.  I finally understand what it means when the Bible says, “God provides.”  That said, I’d appreciate any prayers.  I’m less concerned about “interviewing well” than I am about making the right choices that honor God and advance his kingdom.
  3. This last point is perhaps my most important one of the day.  If you’ve ever wanted to know what stormtroopers do on their day off – know you know.  See?  Even stormtroopers have a Sabbath!

being a credible witness

Category : faith, living a life of faith, taking action

……….

I know posting on R3 has been a bit light the last couple of weeks.  That’s partly intentional and partly unintentional.  And depending on the day it’s hard to tell the difference!

The last few weeks have been unusually busy for me.  Which means I’ve needed to make some deliberate choices.  If you’ve been reading R3 for any length of time you know the prime question we look at is simply, “what does it mean to live out a life of faith?”   In each post I try to answer that question.  But this isn’t just an intellectual exercise for me.  This is something I am committed to doing.  If you’re going to believe in God, why wouldn’t you want to live out a life that reflects those beliefs?

As the Irish Evangelist, Gypsy Smith once said, “There are five Gospels.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.”

I agree with that.  For many people the only time they get to see God, is when I reflect God in my actions.  The more I live out a life of faith, the more they will see the impact God can have on their life.  And so I’ve made a conscious effort to spend more time with friends and family.  Which, sadly, means I’ve had less time to spend writing.

Something had to give, and for the last few weeks, I chose to give up some of the writing in favor of building into people in my life.  Fortunately this won’t last long – the lack of writing that is.  I should be back into the groove starting next week with the typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine.

But in the meantime I’d challenge all of you to consider that Christianity is more than simply knowledge, it’s about action as well.   Greg Boyd recently said in a sermon, “There this a widespread assumption that Christianity is mainly about believing certain things…if you believe those things well then you’re in, if you don’t, well then you’re out….as though God’s greatest aspiration for all of creation was to raise up people who have the right opinion about things.”

So this week go out and do something.  Be a credible witness for Christ.  Live out a life of faith in such a way that people can’t help but ask “what’s going on in your life.”  Go.  Be the church.

will the evildoers never learn

1

Category : God, R3, failure, sin

……….

I rarely start out with such inflammatory headings.  R3 is a place for people to explore what it means to live out a life of faith.  I am fully aware that a lot of people who read R3 aren’t self-identified Christians.  That’s fine.  You don’t have to be.  So while I don’t pull any punches, I also don’t intentionally mean to offend people.  Insulting someone is never a way to show God’s love for each of us.

But there is something about the nature of sin that’s been bothering me the last few weeks.  And there is no easy way to say it.  The fact is, the damage sin causes shouldn’t be “sugar coated.”  So allow me to be as blunt as David was when he wrote Psalm 53: “Will the evildoers never learn?

I’m not the first to ask.  And I won’t be the last.  Ever since that fateful decision by Adam & Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, things have been a mess.  It seems that we simply can’t stop following in their footsteps.

Why?  Why is it “evildoers never learn.”  And by the way, those evildoers – that’s us, all of us.

Are we so blinded by our pride that we can’t even see where our actions lead?  Are we so sure that we can fix any problem we make that we simply don’t care?  Or is the devil just too good at tricking us into believing that God is holding out.  Or maybe we are just so blind we fall for his same tricks every time.  Even Tom couldn’t fool Jerry every time!

What I find disturbing in all of this is that I am no different.  And neither are you.  We are all held captive to sin.  We all fall short of where we were designed to be.  And none of us can seem to break the cycle.  That’s how powerful sin is.  That’s how much control it has.

That’s why Jesus is so important.  He’s broken the chains of sin.  When we are in relationship with him, in God’s eyes we are sin free.  But sin still lingers on us.  It still hurts our relationships with others (and God).  It still causes pain and suffering.  It still destroys like a thief in the night.

Pavlov, in his famous experiment, taught dogs to salivate by hearing a bell.  If dogs can do something like that, why can’t we break free from sin?

time management, unemployment, and God

1

Category : God, R3, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

……….

The irony of unemployment is that I haven’t been this busy since I was in college.

A few months ago I wrote an article about 5 things to do while unemployed.  One of the things to do while unemployed was volunteering.  Now I’m not one to simply write about what you should do and not live out that principle.  In fact, the whole point of R3 is to learn what it means to live out a life of faith.  That’s why I find R3 to both be incredibly fulfilling and challenging all at the same time.  While I’m not perfect I find writing publicly what I believe really forces me to follow through with my actions.

And volunteering is one area I’ve thrown myself into full force.

The challenge I’m facing right now is time management.  The stuff I do involving R3 takes up quite a bit of time.  There are the three weekly updates.  I am also working on the finishing touches to R3’s first community guide.  Plus there are a ton of  side things I do with R3 like research, reading blogs, and twittering.  (Yes, yes, I know, I’m not very good at twittering.)

On top of that I am looking for a job, creating content for another website called Meaning to Work, balancing two small groups, four serving ministries, and all the different friends I have made through all of those activities!

To put it simply there is a lot going on.  And much of it is volunteer related.

But I am not alone.  Most Americans live lives with this much activity.  Little Johnny has soccer practice, Little Suzy has piano lessons.  Mom has a meeting and Dad has softball.  Sound familiar?  As a people we tend to be overwhelmed by obligations, activities, and responsibilities.  This time pressure has made us sensitive to “wasted time.”

What does this busyness do for our relationship with God?

A lot of times you’ll hear that it’s bad to be busy.  And it can be.  If you’re so focused in moving from one meeting to the next you’ll never live with enough urgency to have time to act when needed.  But I think sometimes busyness gets a bad rap.  There are good things that come with busyness.  Busy people really are more likely to accomplish things.  It’s easier to keep your momentum going forward, than it is to find momentum if you’re not doing anything.  When you are on a schedule you’re more likely to use your time productively – however you define that.

It’s not as if slowing down somehow makes us less lazy.  I can’t be the only one who when they don’t have much going on gravitates toward the TV than an interesting book.

But when I’m busy I know I have to choose between a book and TV.  There is no “I’ll get to it later” because I don’t have the time for that.  So I stay focused.

Time management is like so many things – it can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.  What matters is where we put our time in relationship to God.  Are we pursuing things that honor him?  Are we pursuing things that build into our relationship with him?  If we are, then even if we are busy that is a good thing.  But the minute we become too busy for God, then there’s a problem.

So as so many people struggle with unemployement, don’t let this be an excuse to do nothing.  Go out and volunteer.  Get engaged in your communities.  But don’t let this become an excuse to become so busy you forget about God.

taking the weekend off

Category : R3, choice, sharing faith

 

About every 8 months I get together with a group of friends from college and we hang out for the weekend.  We spend significant portions of our time, well, wasting time.  And that’s the whole point! 

After much anticipation, the weekend of the event has officially arrived.  (I head out of town tomorrow). 

Usually when I go out of town I pre-write a few posts and then have them update onto R3.  But this time I decided to not do that.  Part of why I like to pre-write posts is so that content is going up for R3 readers.  But if I’m honest, I also post regularly because I am afraid of giving up control.  I’m afraid that while I’m not posting people will get bored and wander away.  That somehow God is dependent on my ability to update the website on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

As silly as this may sound, walking away for the next 4 days (starting Friday) is an act of faith.  I am trusting God with this site, and putting my faith into him instead of my own abilities.  This all comes about because I’ve been thinking about “the Sabbath” and “taking a day of rest.”  This is something I rarely do.  Oh sure I have lots of reasons why, but when you disagree with God, God should probably win!

So until I get back everyone have an awesome time and consider checking out these sites (and yes, none of them have anything to do with God, although I’m pretty sure he loves video games):

Dubious Quality – my favorite gaming website

Predator X – the most vicious sea monster ever

Seattle Time Lapse – I know I shouldn’t find this so amusing, but I do

the “best of” R3

Category : God, R3, different, faith, reader comments, sharing faith

  

It’s hard to believe we’re into our first day of 2009.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago everyone was sure the world was going to end because of Y2K.  And now we approach the close of the next decade.  So before we close the 2008 R3 season, let’s take a look at some of the more popular posts:

Top 5 Reader Posts

  1. My “about” page – this is by far and away the most popular page on R3
  2. what I’m reading: unChristian – a book that shapes how I approach R3
  3. prayer thursday: courage – the most popular R3 page in Google
  4. what I’m reading: Chasing Daylight – Erwin McManus has a profound impact over my life and this blog
  5. prayer thursday: God’s strength, our weakness – this seems very appropriate considering 2008

My Favorite 5 posts

  1. i’m a Christian because of the money – No.  Seriously.  I am. 
  2. redemption: finding the way home – any time you can tie Darth Vader and the Bible together, you have a winning combination!
  3. what I’m watching: RockTV – if Christians used humor like RockTV more than Bible Thumping, more people would be willing to talk to us when we showed up at their door
  4. love your enemy (and fellow drivers) – I haven’t stopped thinking about this post since the day I wrote it, talk about living out a life of faith…
  5. what’s the point? – always a good question to ask yourself