What I Am Re-Learning Two Weeks Into a Pandemic

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The world as we know it has changed. The Coronavirus outbreak is changing the ways in which we live our lives. It is prevented our churches from meeting over the next two weeks, and in Delaware, it looks like it will be the end of May before we’ll be able to meet. As with any disruption in our lives, it is important to reflect and remember what is most important. Through this pandemic, I am re-learning something important. I haven’t really forgotten it, it has just become lost in the shuffle of “professional ministry.” Here it is:

The Church is more than Sunday worship. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into preparing for Sunday worship. I’ll admit that, at times, there doesn’t feel like there is enough time during the week to prepare for. If I am honest, it is often on Sunday morning that pastors get evaluated on because a majority of our congregation is in worship on Sunday where they may not be involved during the week.

The church is more than Sunday worship. Worship is one of our highest priorities. We are also tasked with helping to shape people into disciples of Jesus Christ. We are tasks with living out the mission of Jesus Christ: to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to preach good news to the poor. As a pastor, I cannot ask my congregation to do something that I am not doing myself.

It is easy to get sidetracked into what I think is important and need to pause and remember how Jesus lived to show us what is important. As Christians, we are called to join in and participate in the mission of God. There is no clearer opportunity for us than in the pandemic that we find ourselves in the midst of. Sermons, live streaming, and the administration of the church are important on many levels. What is really needed are Christians who will show the never-failing love of God to our neighbors.

In James, the author says that religion that is pure and faultless is to care for the orphans and widows. The best expression of our faith is to care for those who are marginalized and at risk of being exploited. This is the Church at it’s best. Loving. Leading. Serving. Caring. Inspiring. Pointing people to the sacrificial love of Jesus through the sacrificial ways in which we live our lives. This is what really matters as Christians. 

In our day-to-day living in this new normal, let us seek to love and serve those around us in ways that are life-giving, sacrificial, and reflect the love that God has for us.

 

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From Fear to Mission

Sermon Text from John 20:19-23 amid the COVID-19 Outbreak

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Duccio di Buoninsegna – Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee

The scripture lesson this morning is a post-resurrection encounter between Jesus and his disciples. It is Sunday evening, just a few hours after the Resurrection when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. It was an emotional reunion, and Mary became the first proclaimer of the Resurrection, tell the disciples all she saw and heard.

On that Sunday night, the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were practicing social distancing, not because of fear of a virus, but because they feared for their lives. The Jewish officials (with help from Rome) just executed their rabbi, teacher, master, and friend. It would have been easy to believe that they were next. So they instituted their own “Shelter-at-home” order and stayed behind closed doors.

At some point in the evening, with doors locked, Jesus appeared among them. No word on how Jesus manifested himself in the room. Of course, this would have only heightened the fear of the disciples that someone new was in the room. Whether they recognized Jesus initially is unclear. Jesus speaks saying,

“Peace be with you.”

That peace is something that we need when we are fearful. Then Jesus showed the disciples his hands and his side. Now, every crucified person would have the nail marks on his hands. What is unique to Jesus is his pierced side. Even after the Resurrection, Jesus is touchable, and his wounds are visible. The disciples are overjoyed when they saw and recognized Jesus standing among them. The word that Mary spoke to them was true. Jesus was alive!

We don’t know how long the celebration lasted, but Jesus speaks again:

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

On this first Resurrection Sunday, Jesus meets the disciples in a state of fear and trembling. They won’t even go outside their doors. He sends them out of their locked room and into the world in Mission. As God, the Father, has sent Jesus into the world Jesus is sending his disciples. The Mission is to do the things that Jesus was doing. To care for the poor, to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to release those in bondage, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The disciples were sent to participate in the Mission of what God was already doing through Jesus.

Jesus called the disciples out of fear and into Mission.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty interesting, haven’t they? As this pandemic grows globally, there is a wide range of responses. I think as we’ve talked with the Church and community members, there is a sense of fear and concern. We don’t know who is infected, nor is there a proven treatment or vaccine for the virus. We have been encouraged to stay at home and to limit our social interactions. I’ve been holding more Facebook Live and Zoom meetings in the last two weeks than I have in the previous five years!

Perhaps we resemble the disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday. Fearfully huddled behind closed or locked doors. Let’s be honest- staying home and practicing distancing is the correct response to protect ourselves and those who are vulnerable in our community. But like the disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday- I believe that Jesus is meeting us in our fear to offer us to things.

First, Jesus offers us peace. A.W. Tozer said,

“Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of Christ in the midst of trouble.”

Two times in this short passage, Jesus offers peace to the disciples. They needed peace because their lives were gripped with fear. They were fearful for their lives. They didn’t know if the Jewish officials were coming for them or not. In the midst of their troubles, Jesus met them there.

Secondly, Jesus offers them reassurance.

By showing them his hands and side, he let his disciples know that it was him. He was not a ghost or a vision. He was alive, present, and active in the world. Jesus has overcome death. For disciples concerned about whether or not Jewish officials were going to come crashing through the door- this reassurance brought hope and lifted their spirits.

Amid the trouble, anxiety, and fear that we experience during this trial- Jesus is present. Jesus is here. As we receive Jesus in our lives, Jesus offers us peace and reassurance that he has overcome the world and that through Jesus, we are more than conquerors. This morning, we can receive peace and reassurance.

Here is the turn, though; Following Jesus isn’t just about making us “feel good.” It’s not about warm fuzzy feelings. Jesus gives them something to do.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

As the disciples deal with fear, discomfort, anxiety and worry Jesus sends them out to do the work that Jesus was doing: to care for the sick, to give sight to the blind, to feed the hungry, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

I am sure that it would have been much more comfortable and more natural for the disciples to stay in the place where they were, locked behind closed doors to ride out the threat. But Jesus sends them out because they were called and equipped for a purpose. They had spent the last three years preparing to do this Mission. Staying behind locked doors was not going to accomplish the Mission.

As we gather around our computers inside our comfortable homes, the scripture reminds us that we, too, are sent out into Mission. Perhaps we’d like to remain behind closed doors and huddle up with a good book or a movie on Netflix; however, the Church is called to live as the Church in times that are easy and through turbulent times.

Reading through different doctors and specialists and watching the news coverage, it is easy to become overwhelmed with what is going on in our world. There is a scary possibility that things in our own country and community could become much worse in a couple of weeks. While we have focused on how to get online worship up- as best we can; as we concentrate on connecting with people over the phone, as we have created Bible Studies through video conferencing- this is not the Mission we’ve been called to.

The real Mission becomes how we live as the hands and feet of Jesus in Milford and beyond during this crisis. As followers of Jesus- who was sent into the world, we live in a perpetual state of sentness. We are sent to serve, sent to proclaim, sent to extend mercy, grace, and love.

As a Church staff, we are preparing for the ways in which our Church is situated to meet the needs of the Milford community during this time. We are blessed to see the volunteers of the Milford Community Food Pantry, many of whom come from Avenue, respond nimbly to the needs of our community in providing food for the community. We are blessed to see our School Districts meet the needs of our community by providing lunches and food boxes through the food bank- many of those volunteers come from local churches. The Church is sent into Mission in the world.

As individuals and families, now are the time to prepare for how to be in Mission to your neighbors. Our church community has been decentralized, a diaspora if you will, to our neighborhoods and streets. Each of you, each of us, is uniquely positioned to be the hands and feet in Woods Haven, Shawnee Acres, Silver Lake Estates, in Lincoln, Ellendale, Greenwood, Harrington, and wherever the body of Christ is located.

While we certainly need to put all the best practices in place to protect ourselves and our neighbors, as this situation continues to grow, we are called to serve. For some, it will mean intentionally calling your neighbors on a regular basis to stay connected, writing a note to someone in the nursing home, helping someone order groceries online and picking them up, and sharing resources. For others, it could mean volunteering with the food pantry, helping to distribute food at the Food Bank, or at one of the schools.

In this time of crisis, Jesus calls us out of our fear and into Mission.

There is one other thing that Jesus gave his disciples. In addition to peace and reassurance, Jesus breathes on them, inviting them to receive the Holy Spirit. The work that the disciples are to do cannot be done without the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, we must do the Mission that God has given us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We should pray to God, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us on how to serve best, discerning what the needs are around us, and how to meet them. In helping our neighbors through the Holy Spirit and in love, our community will know the love of Jesus Christ.

In the fourth century, a plague fell on the Roman Empire and spread rapidly. Countless people died. The population fled the cities for the countryside. The one group that stayed behind was the Christians, who cared for those who had no one to care for them. The Bishop of Caesaria and church historian named Eusebius wrote:

“All day long some of them (the Christians) tended to the dying and their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to all of them.”

Eusebius went on to write that because of the Christians’ compassion during the plague, the Christians “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians.”

When we allow ourselves to be sent into Mission through the power of the Holy Spirit, the world will see our deeds done in faith and glorify God.

This morning, as we close, where might God be calling you into Mission in the midst of this crisis? Who are the people that you can serve as the hands and feet of Christ?

Let us pray that together, we can share the story of God’s love through Jesus as we are sent into mission in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and into the world. 

Let us pray:

God of peace and assurance, during our times of trials and testing, you remind us that you are present with us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, send us out into the world to serve our neighbors in love. Allow our acts of kindness and love to point to your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Nothing Will Separate Us

(Sermon I preached March 22, 2020 at Avenue United Methodist Church)

On June 19, 2006, Andrea and I made our way to Kent General to prepare for the birth of our eldest daughter, Abigail. Abbie was already ten days late, and Andrea was scheduled to be induced. Since this was our first child, we did not fully know what to expect- let alone understand what this would be like. We arrived at the hospital, and they got us set up in our room, and we began the wait. We played Skip-Bo and watch Law and Order: SVU, then we tried to get some sleep.

Andrea woke up around 4:30 a.m. with the first painful contraction. Those contractions continued, but when the doctor came in around 9:30 a.m., he thought it would be unlikely that Abbie would be making an appearance that day. Andrea was not happy. The last thing she wanted was to go home and have to do this all over again later. So she got a shower, and I imagine had her very first (of many) heart-to-heart with Abbie. When the doctor came back around 11:00 or 11:30 a.m., he informed us that Abbie would make an appearance at some point in the day.

I can remember listening to Bill Cosby comedy routine on cassette growing up. One of his routines was about his wife giving birth to their first child. Cosby asked his wife how she felt, and she told him to take his bottom lip and pull it up over his head, and he would understand how she felt.

I’m not sure I am qualified to talk about labor pain. I heard groanings and sounds that I’ve never heard from Andrea. Through the birthing the process, the pain that Andrea and others experience is a pain that cannot be separated from the longing and hope for new life. In the midst of pain, there is anticipation to give birth to the child you’ve waited nine months for.

One look around and we can see the pain of people around the world and on our street. We can see the suffering of our neighbors and have lived it out ourselves. The entire continent of Australia was practically on fire. Africa’s food supply is in extreme danger as heavy rains are bringing about a locust plague. In China, Italy, and here in the United States (as well as other places), the Coronavirus pandemic is creating a new reality, a new normal for everyone. We can hear, see, and feel the pain of our neighbor, of our world, and creation.

Paul writes:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption into sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-3, NIV.

Paul recognizes the sinfulness and brokenness that is evident in our world. Humanity groans as we live with our own sinfulness and the brokenness of those around us. We groan, longing for something better, as we face cancer, loss of life, poverty, illness, racism, injustices, and the list could go on and on. We long for a better world. We want for better relationships. Yet, we get lost on how to go about that on our own.

We are not the only ones groaning. Paul says that all of the Creation groans. The created world is affected by the sinfulness and brokenness of the human inhabitants of the earth. We can look around and see how creation responds to human sinfulness like pollution, global warming, deforestation, strip-mining, oil spills, and the trash is thrown into the earth. There is a connectedness within creation that invokes groaning and longing for something more. What we long for is, as Paul writes, the redemption of our bodies. To be made new through the redeeming work of God.

When a mother goes through the pain of childbirth- the prayer is that it will be meaningful pain as the pain of childbirth brings about new life. This is our hope, as Christians, is that as Creation groans with pain- it is not the pains of death. We hope that, as Christians, the pain that humanity feels is not the pain of death- it is the pain of giving birth. There is meaning in pain. There is meaning in the suffering because God is birthing something new in us and the world.

Here is the truth we hold onto as believers in Jesus Christ: Our present suffering cannot compare to our future glory.

We can endure all things because Jesus lives through us and as we realize that we are adopted into sonship through Jesus. This means that our future is better than our past or present. It means that the best yet to come. It means that we wait patiently for what we hope for- knowing that our present suffering cannot compare to our future glory.

While we wait for that “future glory,” what does Paul say to us in our suffering? What does Paul write to those in Australia who lost everything? Those in Africa who will lose all their crops from the locust? Those in China, Italy, and America who have contracted the Coronavirus?

Paul writes that

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Paul is writing to believers in Jesus who are suffering, who are groaning for something more. Perhaps they are losing hope because they are unsure of what the future holds. Paul writes that “in all things” that God works for the good. Paul is saying something different than “everything will work out in the end.” Paul is writing that in every situation that we face in our lives, that God will bring about a higher purpose. Developing a Biblical worldview teaches us that regardless of what we face, that God is trying to teach us or accomplish some higher purpose in us or through us. In that way, God is working for God in those who love him.

This is good news. According to Paul:

“If God is for us, who can be against us.” Romans 8:31, NIV.

We can have the assurance that God is for us. This doesn’t mean that God is for us and against others- it means that God has gone to great lengths to bring out about our redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ. God is for us- because of this, we do not need to worry about anything else. We will face suffering. We will face trials. Life will punch us in the mouth- but we know that God is for us and is working out some greater good. We know that we are more than conquerors- not because of anything we do but because of what Jesus has done.

This is where Paul gets personal. He writes:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39, NIV.

For Paul- there is no doubt that anything can separate us from God’s love. Paul goes through all sorts of possibilities: Death and life, angels or demons, the present nor the future, nor any power…there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This morning we gather by staring at a screen. Our incarnational, in-the-flesh gatherings have been temporarily replaced by a digital community. Our anxiety and stress levels are way up because of the uncertainty, the fear, and the reality of what we face as citizens of planet earth. The pangs and groanings of our neighbor and creation are not the groanings of death! They are birth pangs. For a time, those birth pangs are as close to being unbearable as one can get- but they give way to joy as new life is born. I believe that God is birthing something new in the church. Perhaps it is time to wake up from doing church the same way we always do. Perhaps it is time to decentralize our community from the church building- and to live as the church in our neighborhoods and community. The church is not someplace we go; it is a life that we live. While we can cancel gathering for worship, we cannot cancel living as the church because the church is the body of Christ. While we can cancel our different worship services, no one can cancel living out faith, hope, and love. Social distancing cannot distance us from God.

During this crisis, and whatever crisis comes next, let us remember that in all things, God is working for good. God has a purpose and a plan. Let us take confidence that through Christ that we are conquerors and that neither wildfires, nor locust, nor COVID-19, nor unemployment, nor underemployment; not divorce; nor cancer; nor fear; nor quarantine; nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

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Closing One of Life’s Chapters

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This weekend we had the closing on our house in Milford.

We bought this house in 2003 and moved in on December 1st of that year. It was the first house we owned (well, the bank was kind enough to hold our mortgage) and we have so many memories there.

This was the house that Andrea and I learned what it is really like to be married. We grew so much here. We had times of great joy and laughter. There were times of some big arguments and fights. We cared for one another here and shared our dreams for our lives together.

This is the house that our two girls came home to. Abbie was born in 2007 and Chloe in 2010. There are so many memories of their early years. Sleepless nights, endless cuddles, dance parties in the kitchen, singing to them as they fell asleep, and the list could go on.

This house was a center for our ministry to students. One year, at Christmas, we fit around 60 kids and another 10-15 adults in our house. We let kids eat in our bedroom and in any place where they could find a spot. We had college/young adult studies here with so many great conversations and memories (Chris- I did take the toilet out. Do you want it?). As we had the chance to lead a church, we routinely had families over for dinner.

The night before closing, Andrea and I went to the house one final time to make sure we had everything out. We talked through these memories and said a prayer. We thanked God for the home God provided at just the right time. We thanked God for the memories. We prayed for the new owner that this home would be a blessing to him and that he would encounter God’s love and peace in this home.

While our Milford home would be challenging to fit our family in now, and the home God has provided in Dover is home for us, Shawnee Acres will always hold so many memories for us.

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The Top Reads of 2019

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I’m a little (a lot) late on posting this. I was going to put links and pics in the post, but at this point, I’m not. You’re smart enough to look up books on Amazon!

Here is the complete List of what I read in 2019:

1. The Imperfect Disciple (Jared C. Wilson) There were some good parts in here, and it fits with the Spiritual Formation theme I’ve been working on. But I wasn’t really a fan of Wilson’s writing style. I finished. Barely.
2. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (John Mark Comers) This is one of my top reads of 2019. I don’t think it will stand the test of time as a classic, but it has been a timely book for me when I think about following Jesus and the frenetic pace with which we run our lives.
3. Shepherding God’s People (Siang-Yan Tan) This book is a great primer of what Pastoral Ministry is about. The chapters are on different aspects of ministry and there is a GREAT bibliography at the end of each chapter!
4. Disappearing Church (Mark Sayers) I loved this book from Sayers. I’ve been listening to his podcast, This Cultural Moment, with John Mark Comers. It’s great. His book is challenging, smart, and hopeful.
5. Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders) It took a while to get into the book, but an interesting fictional read about Abraham Lincoln’s son caught in-between the physical world and the afterlife.
6. The Tech-Wise Family (Andy Crouch) If you’re wrestling how to approach screens and kids- and how to set healthy boundaries- this book is a must-read.
7. Canoeing the Mountains (Tod Bolsinger) One of the better church leadership books I’ve read in the last nine years. The comparison to Lewis and Clark and our challenge of the changing culture is a good one.
8. The Knowledge of the Holy (A.W. Tozer) Tozer provides a study of the attributes of God.
9. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien) This should count as three books! As much as I’ve enjoyed the movies, this is the first time that I read the series.
10. Colossians and Philemon (NT Wright) I preached on Colossians and Philemon this Fall and read all of NT Wright’s commentary. It wasn’t long, but was very insightful. Also very accessible for anyone without a seminary degree.
11. Star Wars: Kenobi (John Jackson Miller)
12. Star Wars: Master Apprentice (Claudia Gray)
13. Faith for Exiles (David Kinneman & Mark Matlock) This is a must-read for those in ministry. At some point, I hope to write more.
14. Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron (Alexander Freed)
15. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs (Stephen Brusatte)
16. The First 90 Days (Michael D. Watkins)
17. Star Wars: Thrawn- Treason (Timothy Zahn)
18. Jesus Outside the Lines (Scott Sauls)
19. Star Wars: X-Wing- The Krytos Trap (Michael A. Stackpole0
20. Frederick Douglass (David W. Blight) I’ve previously written about this book.
21. When Moses Met Aaron (Gil Rendle & Susan Beaumont) Book on supervising a church staff/team. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
22. The Pursuit of God (A.W. Tozer)
23. Your Best Move (Robert Kaylor)
24. The Common Rule (Justin Whitmel Earley) Similar to Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Earley provides some real concrete ways to slow down and create rules of life in order to hear from God and build kingdom relationships and lives. I posted about this book recently, as well.
25. Prodigal God (Timothy Keller) This is Keller’s classic work on God as prodigal. Yes, you should read it.
26. The Prodigal Prophet (Timothy Keller) Playing off of Prodigal God, Keller goes in depth with the story of Jonah. While we know the story of Jonah and the fish, the biblical story is much deeper and has many implications.
27. No-Fail Meetings (Michael Hyatt)
28. Inside Large Congregations (Susan Beaumont)
29. Advent (Fleming Rutledge) This was a great book to read. I read parts of it again through Advent. It is a collection of sermons that would be a great devotional read through the season of Advent. One sermon a day would feed your soul.
30. The Lost World of the Flood (Tremper Longman III. & John W. Walton)
31. Still Life (Louise Penny)
32. Hope in the Dark (Craig Groeschel)
33. Star Wars: X-Wing- Wedge’s Gamble (Michael Stackpole)
34. The Bible– I completed my Bible-in-a-year reading plan. If you’ve never done it and your claim the name of Jesus, then make it a point to read through the Bible in 2020. It is worth the effort!

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An Introduction to Spiritual Formation

This past Sunday (February 2, 2020), I preached on the need for Christians to passionately pursue the way of Jesus in our every day lives. (Listen here. Don’t forget to subscribe!) Simply put, we must live as disciples of Jesus or, as Dallas Willard puts it, apprentices of Jesus. An apprentice forms their lives around the teachings of their master. An apprentice of Jesus will reorganize their lives around the teachings of Jesus.

The American (Western) Church has not done a very good job of making disciples or working at Spiritual Formation. By and large, the institutional church is about keeping the institution functioning rather than calling, equipping, and releasing apprentices in the world to do the work of Jesus.

While there are many books available about Spiritual Formation and what it really means to be a disciple/apprentice of Jesus- there are two that I’ve read in the last six months that have really spoken to me and I think will meet many people where they are- especially if you’re just starting out as an apprentice of Jesus (but they are for the long-time follower of Jesus who need to refocus/reshape their lives)

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The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry:  (John Mark Comer)

Comer is a pastor in the Pacific Northwest and an author. He was once a megachurch pastor who “demoted” himself because he saw how the pace of his life was conflicting with his spiritual practices. The title of the book comes from a Dallas Willard quote to John Ortberg when they were talking about spiritual formation. Ortberg had asked Willard how to be the “me” he wanted to be.

Willard: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Ortberg: “Okay, what else?”

Willard: “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Comer introduces the reader to four spiritual disciplines (practices) that are intended to help us slow down and acclimate to a slower rhythm so that we can hear from God and be lead by the Holy Spirit. The four practices are Silence and Solitude, Sabbath, Simplicity, and Slowing. If you are looking for a primer on Spiritual Disciplines that can help form our spirit- check out John Mark Comer’s book.

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The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose in an Age of Distraction (Justin Whitmel Earley)

This was one of the books I read early last year and it got me excited. Earley, like Comer, talks about the distractions that are in our world and practices (read: Spiritual Disciplines) that he and his family began observing to help them connect with one another and with God. It is immensely practical when it comes to things like cell phones, taking time off, and beginning and ending each day with prayer.

As a result of this book, I have deleted certain apps off my phone that were wasting a lot of time; I lock the remaining apps out during “family time” so that I can attempt to be more present when I am at home. I previously have made the decision NOT to receive any notifications on my phone and to leave it on vibrate. It has decreased my need to check my phone every time it dings! Ideally, my phone works for me, not the other way around.

This book would be helpful for anyone who wants to reevaluate how we spend our time and what we are being formed by.

Interested in Spiritual Formation? If you’re part of Avenue United Methodist Church or live in the Milford area, I’d love to talk with you about your own spiritual formation! The journey of apprenticeship is not the work of a Lone Ranger! Leave a comment below and we’ll get started!

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Reading List: January 2020

It’s a new year with new books to read. Somewhat surprising to me are two books that are political in Confident Pluralism and Win Bigly. Part of that reason may be in preparation for the upcoming elections and my own concern regarding the extreme polarization that we see on the news and in our communities. The third book, Your Future Self Will Thank You, is a book on spiritual formation through the development of self-control.

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Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Differences (John D. Inazu): 

The United States was founded on the idea of pluralism. There is no state religion and so forth. The idea is to make room for a plurality of beliefs and ideologies, even those we disagree with (and who disagree with us), in order to make the best society possible. In recent years, as America has become more polarized politically, our foundation in plurality is eroding. Inazu walks through parts of the Bill of Rights and makes his case for a confident pluralism that makes space for other people, over beliefs, and other points of view in order to keep our country strong.

The book was really interesting and has some great content. It also has a lot of case law and deciphering of the Bill of Rights that, well helpful, can really slow the read down.

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Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter (Scott Adams)

I listened to this book over the course of a day on a trip to Pennsylvania and back. It was highly entertaining as Adams examines the persuasive skills of Donald Trump during his Presidential campaign. Adams gives Trump far more credit than I have in regards to strategy and persuasion. However, from Adams’ perspective, there may be more to the words and strategy of Trump’s than meets the eye.

What I found interesting about the book is that Adams is a trained hypnotist and an expert at the art of persuasion. He shares different tips and tricks about how to leverage persuasion. Then, throughout the book, you see Adams using the same tips and tricks that he alluded to. For example, Adams talks about how important it is for someone to believe that you are an expert in order to be persuaded (i.e. Trump stating that he knows far more about some subject than anyone who has lived). Adams routinely reminds the reader that he is skilled and trained in the area of persuasion in order to persuade the reader that Adams has expertise here. It got to be rather circular with that.

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Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science (Drew Dyck)

This book really falls into the category of Spiritual Formation. Drew makes the case that self-control, which the Apostle Paul list as one of the fruit of the Spirit, is central to our spiritual formation. Self-control allows us to be loving when we want to lash out. Self-control helps us to turn away from lust. Self-control helps us to create new habits (keystone habits) that God uses to transform our lives.

While there are no silver bullets here (because they don’t exist), Drew does a great job of helping the reader understand the intersection of the Biblical, the scientific, and the real-life struggle of self-control. Most helpful was his discussion about “cues” and “rewards” for understanding our failures at self-control and how to reward positive new habits.

What have you been reading this month?

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