practical action

The World Has Changed

©kentoh | 123rf stock photos Saying the world has changed may seem an understatement, an obvious one. But Paul Borthwick is a world-renown teacher and consultant on world missions, and this statement is the recurring theme of his book. He isn't referring to technology, nor culture per se. It's a declaration about global missions. And he ought to know, he has much experience to back it up .

While reading through his most recent book, Western Christians in Global Mission, I was both challenged and refreshed by his writing, research, and dialogue to western Christians involved in global mission, such as myself. As a cross-cultural missionary, I had a vested interest in reading this book and I was not disappointed.

I've already recommended it to others, and wrote a review on Amazon. But I wanted to make a recommendation here on my blog. The subtitle alone challenges the reader with a question too often unconsidered— What's the Role of the North American Church (in Global Mission)?Western_Mission_cover

Having been a church planter in the US and trainer of church planters and leaders in SE Asia, this is a vital question to be answered. Mr Borthwick does this well in several ways.

He begins with broad views of the church in North America and the Majority World, and how they fit into the state of the world. He sees Nine Great changes in the world that are Great Challenges for the church worldwide (pages 33-60).

  • The Great Transition— the worldwide church is primarily non-white, non-Western, and non-wealthy
  • The Great Migration— there are vast movements of people from nation to nation
  • 2 Great Divides— an Economic Divide and a Theological Divide
  • 2 Great Walls— the first being a wall between the gospel "haves" and the gospel "have-nots," the second is the effect of environmental impacts on the poor.
  • The Great Commission— the church has not done a good job making disciples, either in North America or the Majority World (making converts is not the same as making disciples).
  • The Great Compassion— seeing beyond the need of salvation to see people in their need of many things for daily life (yet without causing a dependency).
  • The Great Salvation— a personal worldview that serves as a reminder and motivation for going out into the world with the gospel.
  • The Great Celebration— having vision for the celebration in heaven of every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping Jesus.

The author goes on to give "An Appraisal of the North American Church." It is one I found to be both confirming and challenging. Then "An Appraisal of the Majority World Church." This was both refreshing and disconcerting, and it confirmed my thoughts that the great need in the Majority World (I call it MOTROW) is the need for sound equipping of leaders.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to seeing how to move forward to meet these changes and challenges. There are plenty of open-ended questions and penetrating insights given by Majority World leaders to foster discussion and consideration. The author adds stories of his own that give vivid insight into the learning curve presented in this book.

His extensive experience in many countries and continents with various leaders and people groups qualifies him to not only make statements, but pose important questions. He gets into specifics and provides practical queries and guidance.

I found myself agreeing over and over again with the points made and the challenges posed. Not only does Paul Borthwick make his case well and graciously, it lines up with my own observations from experience on the mission field for the past 20+ years, including 15 years as a resident in the Philippines.

I don't just recommend this book, I believe it is a must read for anyone in North America who wants to keep in step with God's plan for His Great Commission, especially western-culture missionaries.

A continuing theme throughout the book is, "The world has changed." So has the church worldwide, and the world mission movement.

America has a role, but it's not out in front taking charge, directing, and funding everything. It's in a partnership alongside Majority World missionary leaders.

I hope you'll take time to read and thoughtfully consider all that's presented in this book. The world has changed and it's waiting for us to catch up with it.

Learning to Share

bigsaleWhen we were young, really young, as toddlers and in preschool, we were told to share with others. For some of us, those who didn't learn to share so easily, we were told this a lot. Did we learn? My bet is we're still working on it. I know I am. Why is it so hard to learn how to share? In America, the land of consumerism, it's not like we don't' have enough stuff. Think about how many people have televisions, cell phones, cars, computers, and so on. I've visited plenty of nations where poverty is at a critical level. Even the poor in America are better off than most of the poor in the rest of the world.** We've got a lot of stuff and we could share some of it without any great loss.

So why is it so hard to share with others? Oh...maybe you think it's not so hard. Ok, think of a prized possession, it doesn't have to be of great value, just important to you, even something of sentimental value that can't be replaced. Imagine giving it away. How about lending it to someone and never getting it back? Be honest, gut-level honest. It's not as easy as we'd like it to be or think it should be, is it?

Not so long ago, my wife gave away a pair of my flip-flops to a young man who had no shoes. Mind you, these cost me all of $2.50. They weren't of great value to me, but they were to him. At first I was upset that she didn't ask me first. After all, they were mine not hers! Then it hit me. I could easily live without them. Still…I did really like their color and design...just kidding. I could buy another pair and I had another pair at the house. He had no shoes at all.

I've given away plenty of things and money over the years, and really not lost anything at all. In fact, many times I was blessed in the process of giving. I've loaned things expecting them back, and been disappointed more than once. The truth is, it is not natural for us to share. Why? Because we are intrinsically selfish. It (selfishness) is built into us. We didn't learn it. Sharing is something we need to learn, because it is not natural to us. Ask any preschool or kindergarten teacher.

This is what stands out about the early church we read about in the book of Acts. Sharing with others seemed natural to them. Keep in mind this was at a certain point in time. Later as the church grew (in Acts 6:1-7), they also had to deal with the problem of how to share.

What was the key to their sharing and having "all things in common" (Acts 2:44)? Was it because they did the four things mentioned in Acts 2:42? Was it right theology and sound doctrine? Uniform beliefs and practice? The power of the Holy Spirit? Was it all of the above or any of the above?

Why does the quest exist to find the perfect formula or model? I have my own opinion, but now's not the time. It's as if we humans (believers and non believers) think we can find a golden key to unlock some elusive and golden human potential that will bring world peace and harmony. It ain't gonna happen. Not that way, anyway.

44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common; (Acts 2:44 AMP) 32 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all. (Acts 4:32 AMP)

The simple truth is that the early church were all believers in one person—Jesus the Messiah. This is what united them and made them of one heart and soul.

I was reminded once again, during a time of corporate worship, that focusing on Jesus—the Messiah, Savior, Son of God, Lord of all—is the key to unity among people (God's people). It brings a oneness of mind and heart because we aren't thinking about ourselves, or our stuff.

What about you…do you find it easy or difficult to share with others (be honest, not philosophic)? *Do* you share with others on a continuing or frequent basis?

If it's difficult, maybe it's a time for a change of heart and mind. A change only God can bring about by His gracious love.


** In America, many government and private sector programs exist to assist the poor. In most of the rest of the world (MOTROW), government and NGO assistance for the poor is either very limited or nonexistent.

The "C" Word

How do you react to the beginning of a new year? With hope? Anticipation? Great expectations? Many people make New Year's resolutions with full intent to keep them. Others have given up on that sort of thing. Me, I never really did much resolution making, at least, not that I remember.

Many people are familiar with the expression, "The paths of hell are paved with many good intentions." Resolutions and commitments are different. How are they different? Resolutions are intended commitments. Resolutions are what I intend to do. What I plan or hope to do. A commitment is what I promise to do—I give my word on it.

One is a plan, the other a promise. One is an indication, the other a pledge. One involves words, even an opinion, while the other connects words to action. I want to do, or I will do. Both involve risk of failure and require follow through. Both require discipline to carry out, but one is more binding than the other.

As a pastor, each new year I would give a message with a challenge. The take away was a challenge to commit to something for the new year. Each message related to what I saw as a general need within the lives of people in the church, or the life of the church itself. It was my commitment message. I called commitment the "C" word, as if it was an undesirable word.

One of my recurring challenges was to read God's Word (the Bible) daily. One year I challenged people to read just one verse of the Bible every day and think on it through the day. Sounds simple enough, but intentions are different than commitments. Many people would say, "Pastor I want to do that, thanks for the challenge." But later, as I followed up on it, I found that most people didn't follow through with it.

It reminds me of the short parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). Their father asked each of them to go and work in the vineyard. The first said, yes, that he would go, but didn't. The second said he would not, but later repented and went. Jesus then asked, "Which of the two did the father's will?" Of course, the Jewish leaders walked right into self-judgement when they said the second son. In other words, it's not what you say, it's what you do.

Not long ago, while in a group of young men gathered for Bible study, someone asked, "Has anyone ever read through the whole Bible?" Back in the 70's, among young believers I knew, a more likely question was, "Has anyone not read through the whole Bible?" More than ever, a challenge to read through the Bible needs to be made and accepted.

Have you ever read through the Bible? Do you read the Bible on a regular basis? It requires discipline and commitment, but it pays great dividends. And it helps to have a plan.

A myriad of Bible reading plans exist. Some simple and kind of boring. Others are more diverse. And some are a bit complex. One place to find a plethora of reading plans is the site (and mobile App), YouVersion [].

This year I'm trying a new plan recommended by a friend. It's called Bible Eater []. It has some flexibility and is thorough.

Whatever your experience, whatever your level of faith, I hope you'll consider a challenge to commit to read through the Bible. Choose a plan and go for it. And don't worry about failing. The biggest failing would be to not try at all. You would miss the blessing of God speaking His truth into your life.

Killing of the Innocents

Last week I saw a clip from a movie about the life of Jesus, one of the many shown each Christmas and Easter season. It is a disturbing part of the life of Jesus (Matthew 2:16-18) where King Herod orders the murder of all boys two years and younger. It is a prophetic echo from the prophet Jeremiah when he foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem hundreds of years prior to Herod (Jer 31:15). Herod orders the killing of these innocent children out of his own self-absorbed anger and jealousy. It was pure evil.

Reflecting on the recent evil killing of innocent children in Newtown, CT, I'm reminded how often such killing takes place unnoticed by the general population of the world. But it doesn't go unnoticed. Not by those parents, children, and communities who witness these atrocious and evil acts. Neither does it go unnoticed by God.

The Fix
I addressed this a bit in another post (Broken), but I have some further thoughts on the aftermath of the killings. A lot of debate developed over how to fix whatever problem caused it all. How to prevent such tragedies. I heard three general themes or issues through all the rhetoric—gun control, violence in the media, and mental and moral health management.

Gun control will be debated over and over, and some good points can be made. Two thoughts come to mind. Gun ownership is a right according to the Bill of Rights, and once a right is eroded in some way (like the current assault on religious freedom, ie: Christianity), it is a slippery slope for more erosion. Okay, I get that. 

But the 2nd thought is this—guns are instruments of destruction, pure and simple. That's their purpose, whether it's a target, an animal, or a human being. Yes, they can be a deterrent and means of protection (self-defense). Yes, others with evil intent must be restrained, whether individuals or people groups (nations). But, the ultimate question is how much is enough, and will it really be enough?

We do live in a violent culture. I see this obsessive fascination in the many forms of media that inundate our culture—movies, TV series, digital games, cartoons, etcetera and so on. It isn't normal and it isn't healthy, just ask the many men and women of the military returning from active war environments, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

This also can become another so-called freedom issue. But is it really? Do we really need all this violent input involving zombies, vampires, and people who take the law into their own hands. We (our culture) glorify violence, plain and simple. And if we think it doesn't have a lasting and impactful influence on our psyche, then we are in serious denial at best, or simple self-inflicted delusion.

Deeper down
The third general theme of discussion formed around people with mental health issues and the general moral compass of our culture. This gets much closer to the core issue. But alas, morality cannot be legislated. Well, it can be put into law, but it won't just happen because of a law, no matter how well enforced.

How about the prevention of violence by the mentally ill? First of all, who determines which people are at risk for violence? How does one go about doing this? It's a rather impossible task to accomplish. Too many variables and factors are involved, and the bigger issue would be those in contact with whoever could be considered potentially dangerous. Dr M Scott Peck looked into this issue in his book, "People of the Lie."

Determining who is bent towards violent, evil action is not easily discerned. Ultimately, it's a people problem. All of us have a certain capacity for doing terrible things. It's called selfish human nature. When self-indulgence and self-exaltation (and other self absorbed characteristics) go unchecked anyone can be self-destructive, and this can spin off into violence towards others.

A cursory view of un-rewritten history (think– non-politically-corrected) brings the reality of human evil into sharp focus. It is easy to blame tyrants such as Hitler, but what about the many people who played a part in his spectacle of evil? The problem of evil is an internal one. Whether we choose it or not, it coexists in our world with good—moral, ethical and spiritual goodness. 

External restrictions and controls will never fix this problem. It might slow it down a bit, for a while, but it won't solve the problem. It requires a change in human nature. An internal change. One impossible for humans to bring about on their own.

Can we fully understand the power and nature of evil? Perhaps not. Even so, it's real. When innocents are killed it is incomprehensible, regardless if it takes place at an elementary school, an island retreat (Norway), or the region surrounding Bethlehem.

The truly innocent One
The story of King Herod's senseless, brutal massacre stems from jealous insecurity, after hearing of a newborn king of the Jews (Jesus). But this innocent child escaped his terror. Later, willingly, Jesus submitted Himself to the murderous plot of Jewish leaders and the complicity of a Roman ruler. Even at 33 years old, Jesus was still innocent—sinless.

His innocence (sinlessness) was sacrificed for man's lack of innocence (sinful nature). This is the only solution for evil—an internal change, a change of inner nature. Only by trusting in Him and His work of redemption upon the cross can we hope to escape the power of evil. Will it remove the presence of evil in the world? Not until people's hearts are changed and they receive a new nature.

I look forward to the day when God will end evil's reign for good (Rev 21:1-4). Until then, I must continue resisting evil in my own life, and spread the message of the only solution I know. I choose to look beyond the killing of innocents to the only One I know to be truly innocent. He is the judge, not me. He is the One who will resolve all things in His time (Eccl 3:1-8, 11).

How will you process senseless violence? What will you, and can you, do about it? It is your choice, each of us, and it is a daily choice to be made.


Pop! The sound of a cork escaping the confines of a champagne bottle. The brilliant explosion of fireworks across a deep black sky. A splash of brilliant color on a stark white page. Even the sound of Rice Krisipies in a bowl when fresh milk is poured over them. (Are you old enough to remember the old jingle, "Snap! Crackle! and Pop!"?)

All of these catch our attention for different reasons. They're different than the norm. Well, maybe not the Rice Krispies. I've read and heard that writers, bloggers, journalists, speakers, pitch men (err, pitch-persons) are supposed to start their verbiage with some attention-getting hook—some type of "pop!"

Pop or popped?

So, why are pop music or pop culture, and other such things, designated with a pop prefix? Especially when they don't stand out as anything special? Most pop-this-or-that seem pretty bland, middle-of-the-road, dull, or even blah.

In the 80's, mixes of several songs with different beats and rhythms were popular. Sometimes the songs were indistinguishably mooshed together. I hated those. It ruined the identity and distinctness of the songs for the sake of who knows what.

Popular or mediocre?

And that's exactly what happens with most things pop—they lose identity and distinctness by appealing to a wider slice of what's popular. When that happens a dilution of value takes place. They lose their pop! for the sake of popularity. It reduces things down to a state of mediocrity.

This contrast of "pops" illustrates a contrast of choices in this life. You can go with the flow and walk with the crowd, or choose a different way.

When I was wandering and lost in life, one Scripture passage stood out to me—Matthew 7:13-14. It speaks of two different gates leading to two different roads, which lead to two different destinations.

I realized that I needed to make a choice if I wanted to escape the mundane life of this planet. A life different now and forever.

A different way

When I hear too much Christian pop music, it bores me. And nowadays, too many Christian talks or messages (that used to be called sermons) do the same thing.

They bore me because there's not much depth or substance to them. But they sound good and appeal to a broad section of people (I guess). In other words, they are popular, but lack pop!

What path are you traveling in life? A path that is popular or one less crowded?

Does it lead to fullness of life here and beyond?

If not, maybe it's time to make a different choice.


What are you thankful for? Are you thankful? I know, Thanksgiving is past, but I thought I'd ask after all the hoopla of the weekend. Sadly, a holiday set aside for national gratitude and reflection has been usurped. It's typically referred to as T-Day or Turkey-Day and has become an excuse for excessive eating and spending, with a lot of football watching and beer drinking. 

It's easy to become cynical and pessimistic about the state of the world around us, which inevitably breeds the same in our heart and mind. It leaks out through our words and permeates our thinking. The only solution and resolve is choosing to be thankful—grateful for what is good in our life. This was the intent of the first national observance by President George Washington, and the later proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. [For more historical insight, check out Wikipedia's Thanksgiving link.]

Perhaps it's my 60's-era perception of it, but it seems like the whole weekend has become way too focused on materialistic pursuits. Black Friday used to start at 5:00 am, but now it's midnight. Sadly, I must admit that I'm not immune to it, but it still bothers me to be so pre-occupied and seduced by it all.

Sad or glad? It's a choice. I'll choose to be glad through gratefulness. One of my favorite verses in the Bible on thankfulness is found in Colossians 3:15-17. It intrigues me that in each admonition of all three verses (in most versions) is the exhortation to be thankful. The other practical element of these verses speaks to how we are made.

In the margin of my Bible(s) I wrote three words— heart, mind and body. The encouragement of verse 15 is to let the Lord's peace rule (like a football ref) in our heart— and be thankful. The next verse admonishes us to let God's Word dwell—live in and permeate—our thoughts in a full and deep way. And don't forget—with thankfulness! And finally, whatever you do (word or deed-wise) do it so that God is honored in your life example. Again, do it with thankfulness.

This isn't a self-help formula or DIY plan. It says "let...." That is, allow this attitude to govern and prevail in your heart, mind and actions. It's a choice. Have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!

What input do you choose for what rules your heart, mind and actions? The kingdom of the world around you, or God's kingdom? Cynicism or thankfulness?

I know what I choose, especially when I find myself drifting into the prison of pessimism. I choose the prism of praise. It's healthier and much more fun.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:15-17 NIV84)

Stop It! But How?

I'm a product of the Jesus Movement of the early 70's. This movement was characterized by the common saying, "It's not about religion, but relationship." It is a relationship based on trust, trust in Jesus. Trust, an implicit, all-encompassing trust, is another way of expressing the idea of faith (see Hebrews 11:6).

A couple weeks ago I looked at the dilemma many Christian believers have with trying to be good Christians.

It requires a lot of self-effort to do so, but is counter productive to walking by faith, that is, trusting in God. And so, there is a struggle with how a believer can grow in faith and spiritual maturity without a good measure of self-effort.

Self-effort is often mistaken for self-discipline. They're different, at least in a spiritual sense. The first puts great emphasis on external actions and behaviors, while the other focuses on internal strength.

Where does this internal strength come from? It is only with this internal strength that a believer can overcome the struggle the apostle Paul spoke of—

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

Many personal struggles in life can be both disturbing and difficult. This is abundantly clear from working with abandoned and abused children and young women. It is what every pastor contends with in caring for people within the church. Many painful and unjust wounds are complex and resist simple solutions.

But not all personal struggles are complex. Most are simple and are tied to our universal, and inherent selfish nature as humans. They can be more readily resolved, but as Shakespeare said—"Aye, there's the rub!"

Overcoming struggle with sin, selfishness, laziness, greed, lust, and so on, requires a willingness. A willingness to not be pulled into the same paths of deliberate or mindless behavior, and the internal attitudes and mindset that propel them.

Human will is powerful. I am, however, not a believer in the "you can do anything you put your mind to" pop psychology. In the end, it is a set up for failure. I believe God is more sovereign than my own free will. And yet, I know God honors the free will He created in me.

On the other hand, God is sovereign enough to bring even the most powerful to their knees, as the great emperor Nebuchadnezzar found out (for a great story see Daniel 4).

Now, back to the question of how to "stop it." How can a person move forward towards spiritual growth and maturity, yet without relying on self-effort? Let me go back to the scripture mentioned a couple blogs ago [Stop It!]—Hebrews 12:1-3 GW.

At first glance it would seem the focus needs to be on what we might call self-effort—

We must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. (Heb 12:1 GW)

And that is what we as humans tend to do, especially within a culture that prides itself on self-determination and built an industry around doing it yourself (DIY). That's how we are wired.

But further reading and observation reveal the key—

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up. (Heb 12:2-3 GW)

To overcome daily personal struggles, the focus needs to be on Jesus. This is where faith comes in. Again, the basic element of faith is trust. Trust requires the surrender and submission of our will to God. "Aye, there's the rub," that is our dilemma.

However, Jesus has shown us the way in the garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if He could avoid going to the Cross (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus also struggled with His self-will, but after three requests He submitted Himself—His self-will—to the Father.

Even with the most complex struggles and personal issues, this is what's needed. It is the only true solution to "stopping it"—to be set free from the things that entangle us and seem to hold on to us.

It's easy to over think all of this. But it is relatively simple. It is also a daily struggle every believer will live with until we see Jesus face to face (in heaven). The struggle with self-will is the struggle of life, even a life of faith. Will we give in, or resist? Will we remain a victim, or be an overcomer?

What are you struggling with on a daily basis? Is it something recent or something that has plagued you for years? Whatever it is, entrust it to Jesus. Lay it at His feet, so to speak, as a dog might drop a ball at his master's feet. This is what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 11:28-30 GW—

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Stop it!


Bob Newhart has a hilarious comedy skit as a psychiatrist. His therapy is a simple, two-word solution for problems—"Stop it!" If you've never seen it, click on the link ("Stop it!") for a good laugh, but keep reading!

If only solving life's problems were that simple! Well, in some ways it is. But, alas, many difficulties in life continue to trouble us. Why? Why don't we just stop doing some things, or start doing other things? The Apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the Roman church (Rom 7:15-19). What got me thinking on this line was my reading in the book of Hebrews. It's a comprehensive look at how Jesus Christ fulfilled and superseded all that is written in the Old Testament Scriptures. After remembering the many heroes of faith in Israel's history, a strong exhortation is given in the next chapter.

Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.  (Hebrews 12:1-3 GW)

Over the years I've found that many Christian believers try to live as good Christians. My advice to them is—Stop it! Many might say, "But aren't we to lead lives pleasing to the Lord?" Of course we are, but we go about it the wrong way.

Being a Christian is not about trying to do better, it's about being. The popular saying of the Jesus Movement of the early 70's was, "It's not about religion, it's relationship." My children are my children, regardless of their behavior—they just are. They were born into our family, and although there was some labor on my wife's part, they did nothing to become our children and do nothing to maintain their place in the family as our children.

Over the past 20+ years, Susan and I have worked with abandoned and abused children and young women. Without exception, the most important thing for each of them was being connected to their family. In many cases, they needed a substitute family through adoption. It is amazing how strong a bond this is—the bond between child and parent.

In the case of the abused girls or young women, Susan and I, along with the extended family at Rainbow Village, became a surrogate family. This was and is important. We are known as "Mama and Papa" because of the relationship we have with them. This has been an important element in their recovery from abuse.

It works the same way with believers within the Body of Christ, the church community. It is an extended family. It is to be a place of healing and restoration. A place of nurture and growth. A place of belonging.

OK, so what about moving forward in this relationship with the Lord Jesus? Is it possible to just stop it when it comes to our struggle with sin and personal issues? This text in Hebrews (above) indicates this—at first glance.

Go back and look at those three verses (Heb 12:1-3) and observe it more carefully. There are a couple important keys to running the race and growing in faith. Next week I'll go over this. In the meantime, if you're trying real hard to be a Christian—stop it! Just be one. Just be a child of God who trusts in Him.

Beyond Emotion

Lately I've enjoyed some sweet times of worship on two different continents, in two churches (CCD | OCC), and within two cultures. Not only did I enjoy entering into worship, I loved watching it well up and pour out in response to God's presence. I saw people moved from passiveness, perhaps indifference, to passionate response.

Of course, some people are more passionate and demonstrative than others, not unlike at sporting events. You've probably seen cameras pan the crowd to focus on fans painted up and wearing outrageous outfits. But not all fans are like that.

The great thing about worship compared to sports events and entertainment, is being a participant rather than a spectator. Sure, some people in worship services may appear more like spectators than participants, but not everyone expresses themselves the same.

In my own life I've noticed various levels of response in worship, prayer, and even in fellowship with other believers. Much of the time it's due to whatever spiritual and emotional state I'm in. Typically, expressiveness in spiritual environments (church services, prayer meetings, etc.) is linked to emotions (or lack of them).

People are emotional beings, and in the same way we are created with a spiritual capacity. Denying our emotions is neither useful nor healthy, nor is being governed by emotions beneficial. I believe it's healthy for some emotional response to be part of a spiritual experience.

But what happens after the emotion has waned? What takes place beyond the moment? If emotion is attached to some spiritual truth, how does it transfer beyond that experience? Or does it? How does a person move beyond emotion? How can we remain moved in our heart in response to God's goodness?

An expression of emotion tends to be temporary. If I'm moved during a time of worship, how can it benefit me in daily life? When I'm moved in prayer, whether intercession for someone or in response to God's guidance, how will it translate into action? As is said by some, how do I "put feet" on my prayer?

An especially important question is in response to God's conviction in my heart. How does this conviction produce any enduring spiritual fruit? The simple answer is—a commitment to action. This is how to move beyond emotion. The more difficult question to answer is—how is this done?

I've heard many suggest journaling. That may be a good 1st step, but then what? I'm not a journaler, but I do keep a notebook for thoughts, vision, notes, ideas and so on. But writing and doing are two different things. Even as a writer, moving beyond ideas to a finished product takes time and commitment.

I really don't know of any simple 3-point, 5-point, or 10-point, sure-fire method. We're all different. How you approach putting truth (or ideas, etc.) into practical action may differ from how I or someone else does. I make lists, bullet-pointed plans of action, but I'm a procrastinator by nature.

I don't know what it takes to motivate you to move beyond emotion, or an internal stirring of the heart, to commitment and then take action. But whatever it is, you need to figure that out! Otherwise, you'll likely remain stuck in a state of limbo between emotional expressions and a spiritual free-fall of sorts.

Over the years I've learned to operate within certain personal disciplines. This provides a framework or practical foundation for moving beyond hearing and saying to doing. I'm not a believer in "one size fits all" when it comes to practicality. But I have learned some valuable guidelines.

These are simple, but helpful for me—

  1. Start small—don't try to do too much when starting out on something new.
  2. Do the simple thing first, don't get bogged down with what's more difficult.
  3. Build on what becomes useful and helpful, and try not to be distracted by what's not working or unfruitful.
  4. When you falter, fall back to what has been useful, and rebuild what "works" or is spiritually fruitful in your life.

This, to me, is the nature of commitment. It requires persistence and perseverance. It's a way to move beyond emotion to spiritual growth and maturity. You may find or already have other things that help you. If you don't, give these a try and then develop your own ways. God hasn't made us all the same, but He has created us all in His image.

Are there useful, fruitful ways you've found to move beyond the emotion of the moment?