Christian Discipleship 3

Even John the Baptist was skeptical if Jesus was the Messiah, and he was there when the Heavens opened up! Clearly, I’m not the only one who has doubted God.  If doubt weren’t present in faith, I think people would have a harder time finding the desire to seek God more.  I’ve been wanting more lately. I went to group on Wednesday. I usually go merely because I like it, but this time I went because I wanted to worship God. That seems so simple and superficial, but the act of worshiping God because you feel blessed in the midst of the chaos of your life is a blessing in itself. Jan Johnson talks about worship and poses the question ”why do we worship?”  I still wonder a little, but essentially, it’s to give praise to God. But, there’s more to it than that. We worship God to give us structure in life, and remind us of our purpose.  I find myself in the midst of structured worship at church or group and I realize it’s not Jesus I’m after.  I’m going for something else and I want Jesus to be my pathway to that. But, I’m not getting what I want, and I’m getting impatient with Him. Johnson says how true worship should quiet us and focus our attention on the will of God in our lives. It should nurture our connection with God. In other words, it should reestablish our relationship with God so we can be God’s hands and feet, not merely our own.  I like to imagine that when we dream, we are co-creating a world of infinite potential— of limitless possibility. I forget it’s all God. This is good because, as I know so well, we as flawed humans are bound to failure on our own, but with God everything is possible accordingly to His will. Worship should remind us of our dependency on God and the virtue that exhales.

Something else I learned since last week was how I am worthy of God’s use. It’s funny to me that I didn’t understand this before. But, as we discussed in class, Jesus’ twelve disciples were ordinary men! Esther, Paul, Elijah, Isaac, Moses, Abe, David, Joseph, Jacob, and on and on were normal human beings. They would be disloyal, adulterers, cowards, and not confident. God uses people that you would not expect, like myself. And even though Jesus didn’t have perfect disciples, they carried out God’s plan of redemption. In a way, it was their imperfections that made them good disciples. I can imagine them responding to Jesus’ call willingly because they were broken and could see themselves learning from Jesus and all He had to say. So, it’s clear that Jesus cared about everyone.

One of the afflictions of being a Christian has been to listen, with a straight face, to all the reasons people give for not going to church. There was a time when I responded to such statements with simple arguments that exposed them as flimsy excuses. Then I noticed that it didn’t make any difference. If I showed the inadequacy of one excuse, three more would pop up in its place. So I don’t respond anymore. I listen, with a straight face, and go and home and pray that person will one day find the one sufficient reason for going to church, which is God. I go about my work praying that what I do and say will be usable by the Holy Spirit to create in that person a determination to worship God in a Christian community.

Many churches tend to be homogenous. It’s because we like people that are like us. We want a church that we like, but maybe what we like isn’t right. The unity we have now in worship is partial and broken, but we try. Why were there twelve disciples?  Well, there were twelve tribes of Israel. This showed that Jesus was gathering and transforming all of Israel. In terms of myself, I’m learning that love is deeper than just being nice. Everyone’s nice and loving to the people who are nice and loving. It’s easy for me to be nice to everyone.  I used to pride myself on that and I still do to an extent, which is wrong. The test is to be nice and loving to those who are different and who don’t necessarily reciprocate that love.

There are a lot of people who affirm the existence of God with their lips, and they deny His existence with their lives. There are those who become so involved in looking at the man-made lights of the city that they unconsciously forget to rise up and look at that great cosmic light and think about it—that gets up in the eastern horizon every morning and moves across the sky with a kind of symphony of motion and paints its technicolor across the blue—a light that man can never make. I want to say that’s what I live for.

God teach me to love all people because I can’t on my own. Help me to worship for the right reasons and surrender in full to your will for my life.  You’re what I claim to live for.  I don’t want to be a liar.  Amen.

Alright, until next week, my friends. Oh, check out Psalm 122.

Christian Discipleship 2

Last week was good because I came to better understand the concept of eternal life and its implications with the here and now of my discipleship. After reading the books for theology class and listening intently and curiously to my professor’s lectures, my focus has become fixed on the idea of selflessness in the spiritual sense.

Repentance is the moment of complete surrender. I have been learning, both in my UFNDN and Christian discipleship class, about spiritual disciplines and their benefits. But a recent revelation that I read about is how one cannot attain salvation by disciplines. If you try to attain salvation by disciplines, you will be trying to discipline an unsurrendered self. The result should be trust. “Trust in the lord”, right? We’re called to glorify God in all that we do. I think spiritual disciplines are a means of glorifying God the Father. So, I have recently made an oath to honor every Sunday as the Sabbath, putting aside my normal work routine to focus my heart on God and all He has to say to me that I haven’t been faithfully listening to. But, last week I felt that something was off. I know now that it’s about wiping my sin-filled slate clean. Sin drives us toward self-interest. The avenues you’re going to be drawn to are limited and ultimately end in death. So, what’s the point of making Sunday the Sabbath when I haven’t repented? We’re constantly letting go of one thing and grabbing hold of another. With that, it’s like I’ve fallen over the edge of some cliff. I’ve managed to grab hold of a tree root on the side of this cliff, but I have no way of getting back to the top. But see, God has grabbed my left hand. I feel it. There’s just one last thing. “I need you to let go of the branch.” It has never failed to cure a single patient if only he took his prescription honestly. Take the prescription of the Word of God daily. No Christian is sound who is not scriptural. No Christian is sound who has not repented? Yeah, I guess so. It makes sense. It’s like smoking. Why should children of God cut their life expectancy in half by deliberately taking poison into their systems in smoking? Why try to prove yourself an exception? Why hasten the process of decay by smoking? Repentance literally means turning around. I need to turn a full one hundred and eighty degrees, meaning I have ninety degrees to spin until I am authentically free in Jesus to grow my spiritual roots in the right direction towards Christ.

I’ve felt convicted lately concerning my manifest attitude in life. How is it that non-Christians appear to have it much more together than I do? How is it that he is without Christ yet can smile all day long? Secular people have this idea that being a Christian means being a boring human being. They believe that you can’t be sharp because you’re this constant dull experience, confined to God. You can’t be totally lascivious. If life still is difficult, then this Christian thing must be somewhat messed up. It’s this cosmic killjoy. They don’t understand, though, that before, we were in bondage, and now, we can strive to be authentically human as Jesus was. But, just because the Jesus life is the best life, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. In fact, by becoming a Christian, I’d say you’re asking for a harder life, not an easier one.

I have these amazing friends that I’ve met at SPU. I’ve learned that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Anyone who thinks they’re too valuable to keep quiet is wrong. Am I able to listen to someone so intently that, at that moment, it feels like they’re the only person that matters? That’s listening. That’s real love. And, one day, all of reality will be like that. We wait for that day. But, even now, we get peeks of that future, and it’s when we feel completely loved and cared for.

I’m beginning to feel the pain of others and make it my own. It’s suffering, but the good kind. Nobody can continue honestly listening to anyone until they have honestly repented to God. Lord, all sin has consequences, and I thank you for saving me from the majority of mine. I ask for your grace even though I am entirely undeserving of it. You answer my prayers in a way that reminds me that I already know the answer to my questions. It’s real love. Amen.

Christian Discipleship 1

The New Testament doesn’t talk about Heaven that much. It talks more about what it means to be a disciple now. Years back on that young afternoon, the concept of eternal life seemed obvious to me. I understood that I was resurrected there and then to a new life, an eternal life, a life of meaning that could carry me to the sky and back even as my mortal body walked to school each morning.

Recently, as in the last few years, I’ve been so caught up in death that I’ve forgotten that eternal life is now. So many have died, me included, which partly began with my second dedication. That young afternoon in the forest was full of divine virtue, but I forgot the purpose of this rebirth that I clearly understood as a child. The whole notion of discipleship, about eternal life, and about Jesus is that life starts now. It’s seems simple, but I’ve been living a life of reflection, and a life of imagination, but I shouldn’t be that much of a dreamer. Dreamers are believers, but even the demons believe. We are called to act on behalf of our God. It’s all about wholeness. Life has less to do with the quantity of time and more to do with the quality of time. When I’m walking across the bridge and look up it’s become habit to ponder what the Kingdom of God is going to feel like, but God’s been whispering to me that it’s about the experience more than the appearance. I need to forget about what Heaven’s going to look like because it’s going to feel like something so much more.

Leaving my parents’ house has opened up so much to me. I’m relying on myself and getting nowhere, and it’s so beautiful. I know now that I need God. I find myself searching for passages in the Bible where Jesus is merely walking just so I can get my roots strengthened and my branches lengthened because I want to reach more people that seem so far away. I’ve come to the revelation that that I’ve been given the gift of life, and that perhaps the best way to honor this gift is to share my life with others. This forces me to analyze my personal nature of human relationship. My interaction with others needs to change from the current “I-it” relationality to an “I-thou” relationship that God desires with His children. I think sometimes we have to change how we habitually live our lives so that our will and our actions are appropriate. After all, Jesus is humanity as it’s meant to be, not our natural ways of living.

I find myself smiling at the little things like the future and the swaying of the damp trees overhead. And, as I’ve read the required readings for class, it’s become more and more apparent that these are little glimpses of Heaven on Earth. It’s no wonder I feel so great curled up in sky when I’m sitting on the grass hill looking out over the water. The Kingdom of God, or the “Kingdom of Heaven” as it is written in Matthew, is essentially when all things happen accordingly to the will of God and when we experience unmediated fellowship with God. We, as His people, get to experience little bits of Heaven now. But, let’s not forget that life is hell sometimes. There are nights when I stare at ceiling and swear insomnia is the worst curse of them all. But, I can’t kid myself for long because God sets the birds free to fly high in my place.

But, I’ll be young even with my last breath, and I don’t mind it all that much because it will keep me running unto the moment I learn to fly.

Beat Happening

Five years ago I honestly didn’t know I could be this unhealthy; on so many levels i’m close-to-death; so close-to-death it’s almost impossible. But, I used to be a lot worse. I mean, last year was hell. I wasn’t alive. That’s a slight exaggeration, but apparently my new thing is a tough lifestyle (“new” referring to my living condition since the beginning of high school). I had a feeling I’d go right back to normal once I was back home in Tacoma, but, things got strange as they always do.

Soon enough, I think I’ll be starting a sort of theological series and I’ll post them on here. I’m kind of tired of boring you with random excerpts from my life (not that that will ever end), and just being random in general, so starting soon (whatever that means) I am going to stick to a theme. I’ll be reading several books for my Christian discipleship class, and I want to see if I can personally reflect on them like I guess you’re supposed to when you read a book. If I don’t do this, I’m not sure I can get myself to do the reading. So, that’s that. Oh, and I’m back at SPU now. It’s been good, but I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed socially now that people are intentionally interacting with me or maybe it’s because I feel the need to do exactly that with everybody else, which is scary for me to an extent. Or maybe this feeling, whatever it is, is just the product of extreme sleep deprivation. I wouldn’t be surprised. Alright, enough of Nolan’s introverted unhealthy news. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your life for what it’s worth.

New Years

I hear the canons shooting off their fireworks, so that’s a wake up call. The new year is nearly here. I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions because that’s pointless and never works, at least for me (I’ve tried.). But, each year at this time, it’s become tradition for me just to reflect on everything that’s happened.

I must be slightly more grown than I was, but did I grow up or sideways? Did I make strides forward and baby steps back, or not move at all? I’m supposed to fix things, but I feel like too much is broken. If not mentally, then physically I break down, and when I’m like this, my lingering depression rises to the surface. At times I yell at the dark and swear insomnia is the worst curse of them all, but I know I’m okay and deep down I’m sure that I will overcome this and live to smile at a past I overcame. But, I do complain and I have no solutions. So, in short, I’ve come to realize I am nothing without God except one small catalyst to the mistakes I am skewed towards. Situations and consequences I can’t bear on my own have brought me to rely on what I now see as my only hope, that being Jesus Christ.

My priorities have changed. Instead of praying to survive, I’m praying to live and live better. I want to make other people happy. I tend to cling to those who encourage me. Doesn’t everyone? So, I figure it would be nice if I became one of those people, and in doing so, it would only make sense that I will make more friends than I ever have before, and I’ve always dreamed of that. If for nothing else, It would sure help add to my friend collage I’m making for my dorm room with my disposable camera prints. But in sincerity, people are a new found love of mine. God has shown that to me by bringing me to the SPU community. I think I value everyone a little more, and it’s one of the most lovely things I’ve felt thus far.

My dogs are barking in unison at the Tacoma fireworks, an appropriate climax to the year.