The Real Reward of Persistence…

During dinner the other night I decided to watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother. I’ve been cycling back through very slowly for the past year or so. If you haven’t yet watched through season 6, avert your eyes from this blog post until you do… unless you don’t mind spoilers, in which case, please keep reading.

It was a couple episodes after Marshall’s father passed away and Marshall was going through some serious self-reflections. He realized that his job wasn’t meaningful and he was upset that his dad never got to see “how he had turned out,” as Marshall put it. Marshall had wanted to become an environmental lawyer – something that had always made his father proud. But when his father passed away, he was just another corporate lawyer doing meaningless work for a decent amount of money. Marshall wasn’t okay with that.

While watching this episode, it sort of hit me: my grandpa has only seen me as the college or grad student, occasionally working a part-time job here and there to make ends meet. My grandpa will never get to see me realize the ambition of becoming a professor – something that I already know is a long shot in the field of biblical studies, but something I want nonetheless. After all, part of the decision to go to seminary in the effort of becoming a professor was to make my grandpa proud.

I think I felt quite like Marshall over this past summer. In between the end of summer semester and the beginning of fall, I started questioning the purpose of continuing on with more school, debt, and stress, especially if he wasn’t going to be there to see me achieve something. It felt like a waste of time to keep trying for something that has a slim chance of success anyhow, especially if my grandpa wouldn’t get to see it if I succeeded anyway.

Yet as the fall semester enters its third week, I’m beginning to realize that the real reason I had felt this way wasn’t because of my grandpa passing away; it was because of that little voice that tells me I have to earn acceptance, love, and value – things that my grandpa freely gave to me, even when he didn’t agree with the route I had chosen. Him not being able to see any future accomplishments is a huge bummer. But that doesn’t mean that he (or anybody else, really) had to be around to see it happen for it to have meaning. It doesn’t mean that the pursuit itself is worthless. And if I’m honest with myself, he wouldn’t want me to give up now, anyway (he didn’t want us to give up in anything we started, really).

Yesterday was spent doing nothing but Greek and Phoenician homework. While I was testing myself with the new vocab and memorizing all the consonants, I started to feel the sense of fulfillment I had in my first year. It wasn’t as intense, sure, but it was there. And I highly doubt that I’ll feel it every time I sit down to do homework, but to get a dose of it this early in the semester is a great feeling. At this point, all I can really do is keep going at it; keep checking off assignments one page at a time.

When it comes to achievements of really any kind, I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone. It’s there already. What I do have to do is prove that there are certain values my grandpa raised me with that I don’t want to let go of: doing all that I do to the best of my abilities, especially the things I enjoy. One of my favorite Proverbs carries a similar tone; “Do you see the one skillful in their work? They will stand before rulers; they will not stand before obscure ones.”[1]

My point here is not to work as hard and as well as you can in order to be rewarded, but to do so because the work itself is the reward. The things we take joy in, the things that require our time and energy – those are the things that shape us, in addition to hardships, losses of loved ones, and pain. To give up in any regard, to quit before you’re really tested, that is to cheat yourself out of an opportunity like no other to be developed in a certain way – a way that God may want you to be developed.

For Marshall, as I already know what happens, this means leaving his corporate job, but in order to do what he’s most passionate about: environmental law. For me, it means keep going with what I’m doing because, as I’m rapidly discovering again, this is what I’m most passionate about doing – even if I never become a biblical studies professor.

To make one more analogy, my favorite musicians aren’t the ones with the catchiest lyrics or the biggest fan bases; they’re the ones who lose themselves in their music – who cast aside all worry and just have fun with what they do. I can bet it’s hard work, sure. But I can also bet that it’s worth every bit of it.

The real reward of a joyful, ambitious persistence isn’t money, fame, or anything material.

It’s who you become in the process.

God bless.

[1] Prov. 22:29: Actual, literal translation of the Hebrew reads with the masculine pronoun, but the meaning is gender-neutral.

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Taking the Plunge…

I thought I would enjoy it this time around. Last time it took forever and my car broke down on a couple occasions, but this time seemed to be filled with so much positive that I wouldn’t ever see the negative. New city, people, places, and coffee shops – what could possibly be bad? Alas, my opinion has not changed.

Moving sucks.

Beyond small cuts and bruises from moving stuff around, frequent sneeze attacks because you haven’t dusted since the last time you moved, and never-ending moments of nostalgia as you rummage through all your old stuff, there is this looming question of whether it’s worth it or not – as in, is it worth the increase of student loan debt? Is it worth the hassle and frustration of finding an apartment? And is it worth leaving such a valuable community – such a close family – in Eugene?

These are the things going through my mind as I continue to sift out the stuff I no longer need and condense the things I want to keep. I’m still a couple weeks away from making the actual move to Portland (well, hopefully a couple weeks, but that’s another issue) and what I’m finding thus far is that despite being busy with two jobs, I have a lot of time to think and rethink my decision. It’s rather freezing.

What I mean is, all my second-guessing and wrestling with doubt has left me stalled – kind of like my old Lumina at the Kiefer-Mazda dealership a couple weeks ago. It’s like my heart’s telling me to go, but my mind is holding things up – leaving me idle in the driveway. No, I’m not taking my decision back; I’m simply starting to feel the pressure of all the responsibilities I’ve just lumped onto my shoulders. I’ll be in a new apartment in a new city at a new school with a new car, a new job, and new roommates. The “new” is almost overwhelming.

Some questions that come to mind when reflecting over all that is about to change are: If it’s so stressful, why not drop it? If it’s causing me anxiety and doubt and fear and if I’m beginning to lose sleep over it, why not let it go? Why not continue on with what I’m doing now and live a happy life? It’s certainly an attractive idea with all that I need to take care of in the coming weeks.

And yet…

I feel as though I’d be doing worse by not going. It’d be like buying tickets to a baseball game you’ve wanted to go to and then not going because you don’t want to deal with all the people, parking lots, and other frustrations along the way. I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to pursue a higher education – even higher than the education I’ve already received – and not to take it might mean never receiving it again. Sure, I could always buy baseball tickets at another time. But what if I were to marry, have kids, take up a new job, and get so caught up with life that I never even get a chance to think about it again?

Even if that weren’t the case – the notion of being caught up in the “busy-ness” of life – there’s a greater issue at stake. It’s one that involves purpose and this word “calling.” I don’t use that word often because I think it gets overused and even misused. And yet when I consider what’s driving me to study Scripture at a much more in-depth level – and actually thrust myself into such a spiritually-transforming experience that is seminary – I find no other word that fits more perfectly. But what does the word mean?

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines “call” or “calling” as a “Term often used of one being called by God to salvation and service,” (253). What does that really mean? It’s God’s fault.

In a way, I’m kidding, but in another way, I’m not.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out,” – Proverbs 25:2

When I read Scripture, there are so many things that come to mind – so many questions that not too many average congregants could answer. Like, when did Christianity become Christianity and why? Or when did people start treating the extra-biblical letters of Paul, Peter, and others as “Scripture” (and yes, they were extra-biblical at the time they were written)? And if there are so many translations of the Bible, then why aren’t more people learning Greek and Hebrew?

Seeking out the answers to questions like these is the “things” that are concealed by God. Now, I’m not a king, but I know that it would be glorifying to God to search those “things” out. He wants us to ask, He wants us to pursue, and He wants us to be engaged in the life He created. To do anything less than that is not to do anything glorifying to Him.

Taking the plunge to seminary, then, is worth all the packing, moving, and shouldering of responsibilities. It’s worth undergoing all the pressure of higher academic standards and being more studious than I ever was before. And yes, it’s even worth the deeper student loan debt (though I will be seeking more ways to cut those down as much as possible). It is worth all of those things because I, for the glory of God, am seeking out the things that He has concealed in His glory – so that I might be able to glorify Him in every way.

Yes, I’m nervous. I’ve never been so greatly challenged on so many levels. And yet, I’ve never had this opportunity before, which means I must take it head on and become fully immersed. If I try to remain standing where I am, I’ll never find out if I’m capable of the task.

You cannot learn to swim while standing on the shore.

God bless.

Leaving Well…

Something occurred to me on my way to work this morning: Exactly two months from now, I will be living in Portland attending my first week at George Fox Seminary.

Okay, technically classes don’t start until September 5th, but by September 2nd I’ll have moved up there and (hopefully) gotten settled in. I’ll be meeting new people on a daily basis and learning my new surroundings. My day to day routine will be completely different from what it is now, except for coffee. I will never cut coffee.

What I’ve been thinking about all day is how I intend to live these final two-ish months in Eugene. No, it isn’t like I’ll never be back, but I am leaving for at least a couple of years maybe longer. And the fact that I’m leaving for an extended period of time makes me focus on how well or not well I’m interacting with the people around me now. Essentially, I’m wondering what my exit strategy is.

“Exit strategy” is a term used to describe the plan for closing out military operations. For example, if President Obama were to lay out a plan for 10,000 troops to come home from Afghanistan or Iraq every month – that is an exit strategy (I have no idea what Obama’s exit strategy is or if he even has one; just making an example).

But it’s also used for when CEO’s or GM’s retire. They have exit strategies as to what they’d like to do with their final few months of influence within the company; ideally, these things would assist in setting up that company for success. How I’m using the term in reference to my current situation is something like this.

Currently, I don’t have one. I mean, there are some obvious things that need to happen; finding a place to live in Portland, packing up things here, and taking some time off of work to get moved out of my current apartment and into my new one. But those are just things that I have to do; they aren’t components to an overall strategy of how I’d like to live the day to day here in Eugene.

What I think are components to an overall strategy are things like hanging out with friends more often, being as efficient as possible at work, or helping my soon-to-be-former roommate find someone to replace me or find a new place to live altogether. Essentially, components to an exit strategy are basically intentional things I do between now and September that are in the effort to leave well.

Of course, these types of things (spending more time with family and friends, working well at my job, and helping people) are things I should always be doing. But when seasons of life change, so do relationships. Sometimes they’re strengthened, but sometimes they’re weakened. Maybe there was an argument right before someone moved away or one person did a selfish thing that negatively effected the other and it left a bitter taste to their relationship that they never sought to mend. What I think of, when it comes to an exit strategy, is doing things that not only end things on good terms, but strengthens the relationship so that it lasts.

Simply because I’m moving to a new location to study at a new school and meet new people and make new friends doesn’t mean that my current friendships aren’t valuable to me. It is this fact that drives my desire to leave well; to spend as much time as I can with my church family, to care for the people I work with, and simply to let those who’ve known me know that I care about them, even though I’ll be living two hours north.

The Apostle Paul is a great example of what it means to have a presence in someone else’s life while not being physically present. What I hope to do in this time of transition is make it possible to have a presence in someone’s life while not being physically there. It means showing someone you actually care about them by listening to them and showing compassion and empathy. It means doing kind things even if they aren’t needed. And it means, while I have the ability to do so, showing up whenever I can – because I won’t have as many opportunities to do so later.

What I really hope for in carrying out this exit strategy is to get a phone call late at night from somebody here in Eugene who, for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to get a hold of anyone else and they just need to talk to somebody. I want to be that person they talk to despite however many miles are between us.

Leaving well, in essence, is a greater focus on loving well.

God bless.

Cost of Contact…

Several weeks ago, we were hanging out at Scott and Charissa’s place for our Villages group. We had just finished working through an eight week devotional, The Tangible Kingdom Primer (highly recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge), and Scott wanted to introduce his discipleship training program that he had worked on several months ago.

Initially, we are being trained in learning the model he’s laid out for us. Eventually, though, we’ll be trained to train others; as disciples and disciplers (not a word, I know – just roll with it). For now, though, we’re learning a simple way to approach and engage the people around us in an intentional and meaningful way.

Like in college, it’s all about the C’s. Scott’s model is broken down to four C’s: Contact, Connect, Close to Christ, and Christ-like (that fourth one may be something else; can’t remember exactly – sorry Scott). Where he started with the “Contact” is where my mind and heart have been for the past few weeks.

In John 4 we come across a rather controversial story. Jesus talks with a woman at the well of Jacob, which, as Scott pointed out to us, was a commonplace for gossip and the talk of the town. Notice that the woman came to the well when she thought no one would be there. Why might this be? It’s quite possible she was avoiding public ridicule.

As we come to find out in verse 18, she had had five husbands and the man she was staying with wasn’t one of them. In ancient times, she would have been a social outcast, regarded much like prostitutes. Something as simple as drawing water from the well could be utterly humiliating. “Sir, give me this water,” she tells Jesus, “so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” (4:15).

Scott highlighted this story as a prime example of making contact with someone else. Jesus asked for a drink of water and talked with her for a little bit. And look how dramatically her life was changed by a simple, single conversation. Yet what happened after that encounter is what moved me.

I am oftentimes moved more by the human reactions of others rather than the divine actions of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, what Jesus does and says throughout Scripture is profound and I wish to exemplify them in every way. But I relate much more closely to the people who react around Him because, like them, I am far from perfect.

After talking with Jesus, the woman goes into her hometown and tells everyone about Him. She says, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (4:29). She went to the people who gossiped about her and slandered her name and told them they were right. She used the fodder for their gossip, her testimony, to tell them about Jesus. When it comes to making contact with other people – especially when we’re telling them about Jesus – there is a cost.

Granted, much of this is speculation. The text itself does not say that her town gossiped about her, but these speculations aren’t arbitrary. People gossip, especially in small towns. What kills gossip? Truth. And yet instead of attempting to deny what they said, she used it to talk about Jesus. She spent much because, in a short conversation with the Man, she received much.

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did,’” (4:39).

In one chat with a woman at the well, the entire town comes to know Jesus. Jesus showed us that contact can be as easy as asking for some water. The Samaritan woman, however, showed us that contact can be extremely costly. And yet I think Jesus looks at this woman proudly; I think He sees what she did – that she humbled herself before her neighbors in order to tell them about Him. If she hadn’t, would the town ever have known that Jesus had come by?

I don’t intend to imply that we should share are deepest, darkest secrets when making contact with people. What I am saying, though, is that we ought to consider how far we are willing to go – are we really willing, if the opportunity presents itself, to share something about ourselves that not everyone knows just so someone new can experience Jesus? It’s a nerve-wracking question, but what does it mean to bear one’s cross?

Count the cost, Jesus says (Luke 14:33). Are the lives of others worth more than your pride? If I’m really trying to follow Jesus, then I’m going to answer “Yes,” even if I don’t want to.

God bless.

Preparing the Way…

Waking up three hours before work was not what I had in mind to start this week. It did, however, give me the prime opportunity to start a morning reading routine. Morning reading routines have often been all-or-nothing for me; either I get up really early and read a ton or I sleep in, not read anything, and almost show up late to work. Got to make life suspenseful, right?

Anyhow, I started reading Luke’s Gospel. I wish I could say it’s my favorite Gospel, but they are all my favorites. Luke’s unique elements, though, begin with the first chapter. Matthew is the only other Gospel with a birth narrative, but Luke has two birth narratives; one for Jesus and one for John the Baptist. Where one might expect Luke to start with the birth of the Savior of the World, he starts with his fore-runner, John.

What hits me about this back story to John the Baptist is his role in God’s story. Every Gospel reveals John’s task, but Luke has Gabriel, one of God’s most prominent angels, delivering the news to Zechariah, John’s father. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth believe they’ll never have children because it seemed to them that Elizabeth was barren. To their wonderful surprise, declares Gabriel, they’re going to have a son. Yet what is said about him is the most important thing:

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (1:17).

Later in the same chapter, Zechariah regains his ability to speak and sings a song after John’s birth. He sings, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,” (1:76).

In Luke 3 Isaiah 40:3 is used to describe John, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,’” (3:4b). While all the Synoptic Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3, Luke emphasizes John the Baptist’s role in how God would rescue His people: He prepares the way. He gets things ready.

What I think God was asking me was what am I preparing? Or, to be more precise, how am I preparing?

Back in high school, I golfed a lot. I even skipped soccer during my junior year just so that I could play more golf. I wanted to do well for the upcoming season and the only way that would happen was if I practiced as much as possible. Back then, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson were among the top five of the world’s best golfers. What did they all have in common besides a ridiculous ability to hit a golf ball? A ridiculous work ethic in preparing for each tournament.

It is no mystery that the best athletes in any sport are the ones who prepare the most. They’re like Vijay; the first on the driving range and the last to leave. Every swing, every shot, and every possible scenario is played out in practice so that when it comes time to compete, nothing will catch them off guard.

What would this look like spiritually? How do we prepare the way for God to work in our lives? Prayer, reading Scripture, meeting with fellow believers – all of those are helpful, but what else? Are we practicing what we preach? Are we actively seeking to share Jesus – not a pamphlet, business card, or tract about Him – with those around us?

It’s not a surprise that on the day I decide to start preparing for my day more effectively is the day God reminds me of the importance of preparation. Jesus needed John to prepare things for Him because maybe who He was and what He had to say was more than the people could bear. I think the same could be said for many today; they’re not ready to receive Him. So in essence, we’re the ones to warm people up for Christ; to get in a spot where they might be more ready, willing, and able to receive Him.

Yet this immediately raises another difficult task: Are we preparing ourselves for this task? Like I said above, are we practicing Jesus’ words, praying as often as possible, and sharing all we have with the church we’re a part of? In order to prepare others, we must be prepared already. In order to give Jesus to others, we must already have Him.

I’m not suggesting we all quit the day jobs and become missionaries; I’m simply saying we’re all missionaries wherever we are. So if that’s the case, how are we treating our coworkers? Are we loving the regular people in our lives – the baristas, bankers, and bosses? Are we already in the habit of embodying Jesus so that whether we’re aware of it or not we share Him with others? It is by no means an easy task, but it’s the task before each of us.

It might help to think through every aspect of your daily life and the people you come across. How are you treating them? Could you treat them better – showing more kindness, gentleness, patience, self control, etc.? When I consider how well or not well I’m preparing the way for God to work, I realize there is always room for improvement.

God bless.

A Lesson in Loyalty…

Two years ago today, Calvary Fellowship was my church home. We had grown smaller than previous years, but closer as well. Thinking back to the years when we had two services every Sunday and then something going on Wednesday nights, having a smaller body was actually a benefit. Maybe I’m different, but I feel as though I grew more as a person in the last two years of Calvary than I ever would have if the larger numbers were still present.

What has really changed for me, though, is my involvement with my church community apart from Sundays. Back then, I felt as though I had to defend why I continued to go to Calvary or even listened to Danny O’Neil’s preaching. My faith didn’t revolve around self-defense, but it was a large part to how I communicated my thoughts and feelings about Danny and Calvary. It’s different now because I don’t have the same pressures I had back then.

I don’t have friends asking me why I still go there or pastors telling me that if it were them, they would have left. In a way, I don’t have the same distractions I had back then; I’m able to soak in the church experience for all that it is, all that it should be, and leave behind the religious garbage. Not to say that that is how I think of Calvary nowadays, but to say it was a unique challenge that the people of Calvary Fellowship had to work with. Emmaus Life doesn’t have that element. We’ve got all new people and all new challenges.

What sparked this whole reflection of what life was like two years ago was – surprise, surprise – an episode of The West Wing. Near the middle of season three, Leo McGarry (President Bartlet’s Chief of Staff) was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee as to whether or not the President deceived the nation by not disclosing his disease, multiple sclerosis. After the first part of McGarry’s testimony (it was two parts due to a pause issued by the director the committee), he was offered a deal; his testimony along with the testimonies of every Bartlet staff member would be forgotten in exchange for a censure (official public reprimand) of President Bartlet.

All of this is to set the stage before what Leo did. He said no. He said that he takes bullets for the President; not the other way around.

What I saw and felt in that moment was a sense of loyalty, a sense of relentless commitment, to a leader. It was the same feeling I had whenever someone talked about Danny’s beliefs or how Calvary Fellowship was a misguided church or whatever other rumor was floating around. In those days, not even a full two years ago, my loyalty was put to the test. It was a large element in my church experience. Not having my loyalty to friends and family tested is kind of refreshing.

Bear in mind that, back then, I did not see it as my loyalty being tested; but rather a friend – and by extension my entire church family – being maligned. Rumors, gossip, slander all destroy a church body and I didn’t want that to happen to Calvary. The church closed, sure, but it wasn’t because we were divided. In fact, in those last years and months, I think we were more united than ever before.

And I think it was because, as McGarry saw President Bartlet, Danny and his family were (and still are – I’m just describing how we saw them back then) worth taking a bullet for. Heck, they’re worth dying for. Why is that? Because, if you actually got to know them (and you still can), they’re a Godly family.

Thinking back on it now, we were kind of spoiled at Calvary. We had a team of pastors who were above reproach – not caught up in some secret, sinful lifestyle – and they were all following Danny’s lead. I mean, how many pastors resign because of an addiction they’ve been keeping secret? How many pastors take the Gospel and make it about success, possessions, and material blessing? How many pastors take their platform and make it about themselves, their books, and their whole agendas? God blessed us with the O’Neils at Calvary. And if I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Adjusting, though, is still difficult. Those of you who know me personally know that I tend to be an argumentative person – even though I’m wrong quite a few times (maybe most…) – so not having someone to defend, someone to argue in favor of, takes a little getting-used to. But I have been blessed immensely again with Emmaus Life and the Lambs.

Once again I have a pastor who’s above reproach; probably makes mistakes here and there (I say “probably” because I lack evidence), but there’s no secret sin. There’s no agenda he’s trying to promote; no book of his that he’s trying to sell. None of that garbage. He’s simply a guy following God.

And yet, I have to attribute my appreciation for Emmaus Life to my lesson in loyalty at Calvary. Another way of putting is to say that I would not cling so quickly to what we have with Emmaus Life if it had not been for what I went through with Calvary. I wouldn’t have learned that to be loyal to someone or a group of people isn’t defined by what that person or group is against, but rather what they’re for. And what Calvary was for and Emmaus Life is for is real, genuine life. Such a thing can only come when all pretentions and facades are cast aside.

My encouragement is this: Be loyal.

Be loyal to your spouse, family, pastor, church, and even your coworkers. Practice loyalty because in our day, it’s so easy to jump ship. It’s so easy to have a “new favorite.” It’s so easy to have a new pastor, church, job, etc., instead of sticking with somebody for the long-haul.

Life with Jesus is an endurance race. Staying the course oftentimes means running with the same group of people for a while – even a long while.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” – John 15:13

May we all experience such a depth of loyalty.

God bless.

P.S. Leaving a church does not necessarily make you disloyal; many who left Calvary left for the right reasons (weren’t being fed, felt called to a different city or church, etc.). I don’t wish to throw anyone under any bus; I wish only to say that loyalty is worth it.

Reading to Mean Something…

“Just out of curiosity, how many of us read our Bibles?” Scott, my pastor, asked our Villages group last night. It was a serious question that he didn’t want us to feel guilty over. And we weren’t. We all admitted that we have read some Scripture in recent weeks, but overall we could be reading a little more. “Sporadic” was frequently used when we went person by person around the room – including myself.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the importance of starting each day with some time devoted to God. Whether it was two minutes or twenty minutes, I had said that starting with God – allowing Him to envelope you with His presence – was the most important thing. When I had written that post, I made up my mind to devote my mornings to Him and read more Scripture. It helped, for two-ish days. And once my work schedule had changed, my reading or praying withered to almost not at all. In a matter of days.

I’m not pointing this out to publicly beat myself up (although Jim Carrey in Liar Liar does it really well). I bring it up because I have noticed a definite correlation between the amount of Scripture I read and how Christ-minded I am when at work or the grocery store or just out driving. Actually, I should say how not Christ-minded I am when around others. It’s like I’m a different person.

You probably couldn’t even notice it, either. I’d still be polite and kind and probably have a good thing to say about God or two. Maybe I’d share a thought from a Scripture I had read weeks ago or something from a pastor’s sermon I found deep and really spiritual or whatever. You wouldn’t notice because I have these habits so heavily engrained in my day-to-day walk that they have begun to lack meaning. If I can help it, I don’t want anything I do to lack meaning, especially carry out God’s love.

Again, I’m not trying to get anyone’s pity. It’s not the end of the world that I don’t read my Bible as often as I should. But that’s just it; I don’t do a lot of things as I should. I believe that is the bigger problem. And what I can’t help but notice is that the only remedy is Jesus. If I’m not seeking Him on a day-to-day basis (heck, barely on a once-a-week basis as of late), then how in the world am I going to be able to do things as I should?

Here again comes that indirect challenge from Scott – who, by the way, admitted that he’s also been reading less than he’d like (then again, his wife did just give birth… his wife who read her Bible on the day their baby was born, probably while she was giving birth). Reading our Bible isn’t the thing that’s going to make us change, sure, but it’s a start. After all, who’s the Bible about? God. His Son Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit. If we want to get into tune with what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future, we can start with Scripture.

As Scott reminded us last night; the goal isn’t to get us to check another thing off some imaginary list. When we stand before God, He isn’t going to say, “All of that sinning sure looks bad, but hey, you did read your Bible on a daily basis, so you’re good to go.” The whole goal with Bible reading, prayer, community, giving, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoners isn’t to build a golden spiritual résumé where God awards us an honorable spot in heaven’s hierarchy. It’s to let our light shine before others so that God may be praised.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” – Matthew 5:14-16

In order to advance God’s kingdom; to become a more Christ-like person, a better coworker, friend, relative, teammate; and to allow the Helper, the Holy Spirit, more room to roam, we who love Jesus must practice His characteristics. What helps to practice those characteristics? Reading Scripture and seeing how He did things. Praying for eyes to see even further than we can in our current spiritual position. Gathering with a fellowship as they did in Acts to share what we have so that no one lacks anything. Especially meaning.

God gives life to us, which means He gives meaning to us. If we want to mean something to somebody – really anybody – we must get it from the Source of Meaning. Scripture is chock-full of His meaning.

Do not feel guilty if you’re like me and haven’t been reading much of your Bible. That isn’t the goal; the goal is to do something and be somebody with what we read.

God bless.