Comfortable Christian

For the longest time I would say with a high level of certainty that this is a phrase that I would use to define my relationship with God. Unfortunately, for myself, and many others these two words have become synonymous. While this was never my intention, like many aspects of my own life, I became complacent in my growth.

Making a decision to change an aspect of your life, whether it is your personal faith beliefs, an aspect of your health, your career, or a relationship you have with another is never easy. Unless we continue to reinforce that decision our growth will eventually stop. It comes in the form of only going to church on Sundays, cheating on your diet or skipping a workout, and even giving ourselves permission to enter into a relationship with someone who has many of the characteristics of the person we just cast out of our lives. Whatever it is, our old tendencies come back, and often with a vengeance.

Many people would call this the “enemy” sneaking back into our lives, working his plans, and being patient enough to wait out our own humanity; knowing it’s easier for us to go backwards than it is forwards. I don’t think anyone would argue that routines, especially ones that we find comfortable, are very hard things to break away from. In fact, the more ingrained that pattern is, the more difficult it is for us to make lasting change.

Fortunately for Christians we do not have this option! When we enter into a relationship with God we enter it knowing that there are boundaries and expectations on our relationship. How many of us have heard that being a Christian is the hardest thing? It truly is, because we have a God that cares about us more than anyone in our lives. Not only that, our God desires to have a relationship with us no matter what our faults are and He meets us where we are and expects us to grow.

In my small group on Friday night, we talked about forgiveness; specifically focusing on our forgiveness of God. The conversation soon evolved into the servant nature of our relationship with God. In fact, as it was eloquently argued, we are in fact enslaved to God, as he purchased our lives through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

While that in it self was an amazing teaching, it got me thinking about the general responsibilities we all share as Christians. We are called to grow in our understanding of God, and to really take hold of what His will is for our lives. When we are in congruency with the plans that God has for us, and allow Him to direct our lives, we cannot begin to fathom the amazing things that may happen through us, by Him. While our lives won’t always be filled with “sunshine and rainbows” God’s will, His teachings, and the way our lives play out, always, without fail, are designed to be good for us, and afford us the opportunity to grow deeper in our relationship with Him.

In Luke chapter twelve, we see that our understanding of God’s will for our lives is proportional to His expectations for us. Additionally, when we are incongruent with His will, the “punishment” we receive is proportionate to our understanding of the Word:

"The servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48)

The good news in all of this is that He entrusts us with many things and we freely choose to take on these responsibilities; however difficult they may be! We all know that God can speak to us in our quiet time, through another individual, or through an event. Sometimes this conversation is designed to remind us that we are straying from His path. When God speaks to us through another person, we can either choose to accept their criticisms as words of encouragement coming from a sincere place, or an attack against us (something the enemy would want us to believe!). It is these individuals in our lives who hold us accountable for our actions that TRULY love us, and aren’t afraid to approach us. It is when we aren’t receiving this feedback from others that we should be truly concerned, because when others stop paying attention to your behavior and the congruency of your actions with your stated ideals, that they have really given up on you.

As one final note, I realize it is hard to have these conversations with others. You don’t want to “come off wrong” or be “misinterpreted.” Even at the age of 30, I am still (in my mind) terrible at starting this type of conversation, but I can tell you that if you truly do it out of love for the other person, they will know it. In fact, it is often in these moments where we are helping to lead our brothers and sisters back to Christ, that God will reveal in our own lives some of the ways we ourselves may have strayed.


Finding Flow

There is the old idiom “go with the flow” that many of us have heard countless times in our lives. Often, we are reminded of this under situations that are stressful to us. Whether we are in the midst of a situation that may feel foreign, alienating, or we just feely poorly equipped to adequately respond to the given task, this statement often applies. I know in my own life, particularly my studies in chiropractic school, I often encountered experiences such as this as I was exposed to new, and vastly different, techniques. As my knowledge base shifted, and my understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanical and neurological function of the human body, and most importantly, the philosophy of chiropractic grew, these challenges became less frequent. In fact, they became opportunities to flourish and grow.

When we are actively engaging this “flow,” we can rephrase the action as “going with the flow.” As Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi describes in his numerous works on a topic called “flow,” when we are actively working in an environment that has certain conditions for success, we may often enter this state of flow. These conditions include: (1) structured goals and specific tasks, (2) an understanding of the skill-set, and the personal fortitude to see the task through, and (3) immediate feedback which allows for shifts in how the individual engages in the task to keep it continuous and uninterrupted.

This concept of “flow” manifests itself in many ways. Have you ever had a day at work where it just seemed to fly by and unbelievably productive? You probably even felt energized at the end of the day, as if it almost required none of your physical energies. I know that for myself, this experience often manifests itself when I am serving through the vehicle of chiropractic. I’ll be adjusting for a few hours, and when I sit down to finish my paperwork at the end of the evening, and actually tally up the number of patients I have seen, I surprise myself. The day seemed effortless, enjoyable, and fulfilling.

When speaking with my mentor two weeks ago, he asked me how I end up in that space while I am adjusting. My answer really came down to “my trust in God.” I notice that the more I trust God in guiding my adjustments (and even my studies in school) the more profound the healings are that occur, the more patients I can serve, and the more filled up I feel at the end of the day. It’s as if we enter into a state of trance, and serve with God’s guidance.

Scripture even supports this idea of “finding flow” (incidentally, also the name of one of Csikszentmihalyi’s books). In John 7:38 Jesus tells us, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” When we are connected to God and the Holy Spirit it is truly a time for God to work through us. As A.W. Tozer points out, our relationship with God is proportional to how often we see God working through us in our lives, and the credit we give to a power not of our own at work. Our belief, understanding and the relationship that we build with God represents our own preparedness to face whatever challenges or situations that may arise.

I would argue that there is a direct relationship between our individual relationships with God and the frequency that we find ourselves in flow. For as the Word of God often states, when we are out of relationship with our Father, the waters dry up. One clear example of this is Psalm 107:

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. (verses 33-38)

On Sunday at Marietta Vineyard Church I believe that we collectively entered a state of flow and it was testament to the growth that our church is undergoing. While it would be impossible to adequately capture the profoundness of Sunday morning’s worship service, the best way I could describe it would be that we collectively "wrote a song for God.” As Psalm 107 states the vineyards will yield a fruitful harvest and their numbers will greatly increase. While there is the literal translation of increased food, I really feel this verse directly speaks to what is going on in our church.

As Pastor Ron pointed out in his sermon, the more “junk” we remove from our own personal rivers, the deeper our relationship with God will grow (and flow!). I like to think of our church as individual members who are working to clean up their own rivers. And, each of these rivers flows into one larger one, which we collectively define as our church body. As our personal rivers become clearer, stronger and more fertile, our church will exponentially grow in it’s own strength and fertility.


A God Who is More Than Enough!

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a number of incredibly faithful men, who you look at and say, “that is a Man of God.”  On Thursday mornings we come together for a Bible study, and the wisdom of some of the men is so profound.  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of years of collective experiences in this room.  And to hear each man go around and share how God has worked in his life, and to further relate that to scripture, is something I am grateful for. 
Today our discussion focused on Mark 6:30-44, “Jesus Feeds Five Thousand,” which reads as followed (Courtesy of BibleGateway.com):
 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
 30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
 32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
 35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
 37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
   “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money[a] to buy food for all these people!”
 38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”
   They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”
 39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
 41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!

These fourteen verses paint the picture of a God who provides more than we could ever need.  Here we have the disciples of Jesus faced with the task of providing for 5,000+ people (note that it is titled Jesus feeds 5,000, but in verse 44 it says “5,000 men and (emphasis added) their families”).

In the same way you and I would approach the situation, the disciples suggest that people go and find their own food, so they may not go hungry.  However, Jesus tells the disciples to feed them (verse 37).  Could you imagine if you looked out your front door right now, and you and your family, roommates, or friends, were charged with the task with feeding over 5,000 people (without any notice!)?  I would certainly be overwhelmed and nervous that I didn’t have enough food for that many people, let alone the money to feed that many people (I can barely afford to feed one person right now!).  How many times in our life are we faced with a task that seems impossible?  A task where we feel as if there is no way we could complete it without some divine intervention?  I know there are many times in my life that I have been overwhelmed by a situation and have panicked and let it take control of my life. 

Is that what Jesus would have us do?  Or is there another way for us to approach life and the challenges that it presents to us?  Is it possible to be at complete peace while tackling life?  I know that in my short time of being a Christian, I have experienced such a peace.  In November of 2009, after I gave my life over to the Lord and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I was challenged.  My father had a massive heart attack and needed to have quadruple bypass surgery, and at the same time, my aunt who has been struggling with illness for a number of years now, started to really decline in health.  I had a tough decision to make: do I let the devil make me doubt my relationship with God, by bringing illness into my family, or do I let that further strengthen my relationship with Christ?  Choosing the latter, I found complete peace in my life, and a focus and intent that I had never experienced before in everything I did.  Choices became easier for me, time didn’t seem to exist. I became more productive, all because I chose to believe that God has a purpose for everything.  What I haven’t mentioned is that during this time, I was in graduate school and had my lab practical’s coming up, as well as, finals week for the eleven classes I was enrolled in.  I wasn’t able to go see either of them.  I chose to focus on the controllable things in my life, and keep my father and aunt in my prayers, and subsequently my life was filled with a peace, and a knowing that everything would work out. 

Have you ever experienced this before?  Where you are involved in something and it seems like time flies?  You don’t know how you made it through it, but you did?  You may not even remember the process or the people involved to get you from point A to point B, but you made it.  In the same way, the disciples were able to feed 5,000 people with what seemed like a small amount of food (five loaves of bread and two fish). 

We truly do have a God who provides for us.  The disciples, while they may not have recognized what was going on at the time, were able to go back to Jesus to “fill up” with more food (insert faith, peace, etc. here) over and over, to provide for others.  God’s love never runs out.  We can be forever filled up by God if we choose to turn to him.  In fact, as one man pointed out this morning, God will provide us MORE than what we need.  After the feeding of 5,000 men and their families, there were 12 baskets of leftovers.  All over the place we see that God provides more than we need, as long as we seek the answers through Him (see 2 Kings 4:1-7 for another clear example of this). 

God doesn’t ask that we have all of the answers to life’s problems, He only asks that we look at our lives and recognize the tools we have to work with.  Sometimes the answers to our problems are material objects, such as bread and fish.  Sometimes it will be a skill that we have developed over the years.  And still, at other times, it will be a quality of our character that helps us make it through.  Whatever it is, we need to recognize what we have in our life.  Even if it doesn’t seem clear as to how the problem will be solved, God only asks that we take one step at a time.  And after we take that one step we are in a completely different place.  God is always with us, that will never change, but our proximity to God is ever changing.  With each action we take, we either grow closer to or further away from God. 

How is God working in your life today?  In what ways has He helped you make it through a problem or challenge that seemed impossible at the outset?  We truly do have  a God who provides more than enough!         


A Call To Spiritual Growth

Most days I don't need a reminder to be actively working on creating a deeper sense of faith and purpose.  As Ann pointed out in a reply to my first post, I am a new Christian (meaning I haven't been one for but three and a half months).  I still have a sense of wonderment, and an intensity for pursuing and developing my faith.  All too often in life, we start something new and get really excited.  How many of us have started a new hobby, only to find that a month or two later all of the supplies are slowly collecting dust!  Have you ever set a New Year's resolution to lose weight, and are stuck with a year long gym membership that you've used twice? (I know I have!)  There are numerous examples that we could apply to each area of our life.  But what makes a pursuit of faith, particularly a deeper understanding of God and his son Jesus, different?  For me, it is because unlike a hobby, or a diet, or the newest "craze," my faith in God defines who I am. 

How many of us know someone who has been married for 30, 40, 50 years or more?  How do they make it work?  What has kept them together for all of those years?  I feel it really boils down to one thing...a desire to understand their partner (and maybe, for the guys, saying "yes dear" to everything ;).  This doesn't mean a couple will never have a struggle, or difficult times, but it does mean that they are open to working through these problems.  God, is open to working with us on our struggles.  We are constantly tested, day in and day out, but as Jeremiah 1:5-8 states:

 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
       before you were born I set you apart;
       I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
 6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.

God is telling us that no matter what challenges we face, He will always be there to rescue us.  We will always succeed, as long as we have our faith.  Shortly after I became a Christian my father had a massive heart-attack, and my aunt was hospitalized for an ongoing condition.  It would have been easy for me to give up my faith, and proclaim, "Why me?"  Instead, I chose to dive deeper into my relationship with God, and things have only grown stronger.  You too have that choice available to you.  Are you going to find the Godliness in things?  Or are you going to choose to believe that God has abandoned you, or doesn't favor you any longer. 

I hope that you and I continue to choose to grow deeper in our faith and understanding every day, and not let ourselves become one of those mentioned  in Hebrews 5:11-14  "11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." 

A close friend of mine says it best: "Being a Christian is one of the hardest callings in life."  And I would like to add to that, that it is also the most rewarding!  Are you going to see yourself as a "child" or "infant" in the eyes of God?  Or are you going to choose something greater?  I know what my choice is!

~God Bless 



A mentor of mine, Dr. Barrett uses a phrase, "My knees hit the ground before my feet," suggesting that every morning the first thing he does is wake up and pray before God.  How many of us have that kind of commitment in our lives?  Are we truly honoring the blessing that we have received in life? 

Genesis 12:1-3 says, " The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who treat you with contempt.  All the families on earth will be blessed through you."

This blessing spoken of is fulfilled when Christ dies for us on the Cross.  Numerous times in the New Testament, particularly in Galatians, you will find references this fact.  Louie Giglio pointed out the other night in his sermon that in the New Testament the only time the words "bless," "blessing," or "blessed" are used is in reference to the Blessing we have all already received.  WE ARE BLESSED!   But are we blessing HIM?  It is so easy for us to ask for blessings in our everyday life, and be focused on the things we want.  The other night I was having a discussion with a close friend of mine, and she asked me, "how can we bless God?  What does a blessing really mean?"  Merriam-Webster defines bless as, "to praise or glorify," .  Are we offering praise and glorification to the one true God, who has sent his Son to bear the weight of our sins?  

My challenge to you is that throughout this next week, be conscious of your inner discussions and prayer with God.  Are you truly glorifying God, and trusting in the fact that He will provide everything you need in life?  Or are we continually asking for blessings in our life, as if we don't trust in the fact that we are already blessed?  God will give us what we ask for, but why should we have to ask for things, if He has already provided everything we need?


What does a Life:Remixed look like?

Thank you for finding your way to Life:Remixed!  I am by no means a "blogger" by trade, but I do feel it is important for everyone to discover who they are, and once they find out what it is, to share that with the world.  For me, accepting Christ as my personal savior on November 20, 2009 changed my life forever.  For eleven years I had been searching for "something."  I never felt complete; always yearning.  God moved so many pieces in my life, and it just took putting my complete, unwavering faith in his Son, Jesus Christ to know God.  This has profoundly changed my life.  I hope as I grow, and this blog grows, you too come along for the journey.  While we all have different paths in life, there is only one true destination.  It is my intent, that as I share stories, scripture, and personal information about myself, it prompts you to question things in your own life, and if appropriate, take action and grow.  I welcome any and all comments, and look forward to having an open dialogue with you, my brothers and sisters. 

A man who I admire greatly, Dr. Pete Sulak, opens all of his discussions with the following: "My brother's and sisters.  Tonight, I may offend some of you.  In fact, I may have already offended you.  Just know that I have offended you with the truth."  Like Dr. Sulak, enclosed in these pages will be "my truth."  I am not asking for you to agree with it, or adopt it as your own.  We are all a piece of something much greater than ourselves.  My hope is that while we acknowledge and respect eachothers' stories and lives, we come to the realization that we are all a part of the same cloth.

Galatians 5:13-15 tells us, "13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."  I hope that you find this a safe forum to voice your opinion and have your Life:Remixed.