We Eat

This commercial has recently been airing on TV:

I found it to be rather funny at first.  I was just surprised to discover that the one thing which makes women so awesome is that they eat (and that they eat Special K, no less).  But there is a sense is which that is true.  It is true that performance is driven by and even dependent on nutrition.   It is true that your eating fuels your doing.  It may even be true that your eating fuels your being (you are what you eat, after all).

And that is not just a truth.  It is a spiritual truth, a discipleship truth, a truth of the walk with God.  That walk is something that is done.  There is a performance to it (we aren’t judged by that performance as much as we might think, but there is still a performance to it), and that performance is likewise driven by/dependent on nutrition, what we eat.

That is what makes the spiritual disciplines and practices so important, particularly the disciples/practices of Bible reading and church attending.  These practices are our spiritual food.  They are the eating that fuels our doing.  Jesus Himself indicated this in Matthew 4:4:


There are several other Scriptures which suggest this same thing, such as John 6:51, 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:14 and  13:10), and 1 Peter 2:1-3.  Beyond that, logic itself suggests it.  After all, there is no such thing as perpetual motion in the physical universe, so why should we think there would be such a thing in the spiritual universe?

So we all need to eat.  All us disciples, female and male, need to spiritually eat if we are going to spiritual do and/or spiritually be.  We need to eat through regularly reading the Bible and meeting with other believers.  This isn’t a guilt trip; guilt shouldn’t be part of the spiritual disciplines and practices.  It is a biblical and logical conclusion.  The cereal companies can see that conclusion; they package and exploit it in a way I don’t care for, but they can at least see it.  May we believers see it and act on it as well.


Jehovah Jireh

Facebook showed me this “memory” today:

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That was me doing a little bouldering at the Diablo Rock Gym about five years ago.  (It was taken by a professional cinematographer, by the way; I know it doesn’t look like it for some reason, but it was).   As I looked at this “memory”, I was reminded me of something else that happened at this gym.  I was climbing one day with my wife (who, being afraid of heights, was not nearly as enthusiastic about climbing as I was).  The climbing routes are always given names; bouldering problems are just numbered, as you can see in the picture (V1, V2, etc), but routes are named.  Usually a group of routes in a certain area have related names; their names follow themes (movies, songs; one times it was hobbits, I think).  It so happened that the group I was climbing were named after God.  Each route had one of the “Jehovah” names of God.  I’m sure you’re familiar with those names.

In particular, one route was named “Jehovah Jireh” (or “Jire”, as above).  As you probably know, Jehovah Jireh means “The Lord Will Provide” and comes from the “binding of Isaac” narrative of Genesis 22.


I remember thinking very deeply about that truth as I climbed that route.  I needed the Lord to provide for me in that moment; the route was at the edge of my abilities, and I need strength and skill to complete it (which I did).  I needed the Lord to provide for me in other ways as well: in my ministry, my marriage, etc.  As I climbed this route which had this blessed name/Scriptural promise, I had the strong hope He would do just that.  I climbed the route with the belief that He was not only providing for me in that climb but would provide for me in these other ways as well.

Oddly enough, I saw this memory on Facebook on the same day my daily devotional reading put me in Genesis 22.  I read the binding of Isaac narrative with its Jehovah Jireh promise right before I saw this picture.  So I got hit with this truth twice.

And that was something I greatly appreciated.  See, I have worried about my needs all my life; that has been a big issue for me ever since I first learned my family was poor as a grade school kid.  I know for a fact I was worried about my needs being met at least by 4th grade if not by 3rd grade.

But what I see now in the word of the Lord is that I have worried about these needs needlessly.  What I am being reminded of in the Scripture/the name of God is that God is a provider, that God is my provider, that God will provide for my every need just as He provided for Abraham (in whose footsteps of faith I am walking; Romans 4:12).

I forget this truth at times.  I start looking at my needs rather than at my Father God’s goodness, and I start to worry.  This truth will never be a one-and-done truth, at least not for me.  I’ll never get over my concern about my needs the way this lady got over her fear of flying:

That’s why I need constant reminders of it.  That’s why I need to keep coming back to Genesis 22 and similar passages (Matthew 6:33), which I will do all my life.  I need to be continually confronted with the truth of Jehovah Jireh as well as all the other related truths of the goodness of God so I can overcome my fear, and today I was confronted with it.

I guess that was God providing for me all over again.

A Sliding Scale

I told you yesterday about the “advance” I had with men from my congregation and a few other congregation.  I talked about the petition “Lead us not into temptation” from the Model Prayer of Matthew 6/Luke 11 at that advance.  As part of my time, I explained to the men that there were two ways to live, each of which went to a different destination, a fact I illustrated with this picture:

As I said yesterday, the men often spoke up during my time, asking me questions or even challenging my conclusions.  One of them did just that, telling me that instead of depicting the “lead us not” concept as the choosing of one destination over another I should depict it as a sliding scale.

This same idea came up at a discipleship group I led last night.  We read Matthew 12:22-32 to start the group, and one of the guys there said Jesus’ teaching about “whoever is not with me is against me” reminded him of this sliding scale concept.  He said that the more he walked toward Jesus, the less he walked toward both the negative acts of temptation as well as the neutral things that are just “not Jesus”.  He also said it worked the other way as well, that the more he walked toward either negative or neutral things, the less he walked toward Jesus.

And I wholeheartedly agreed with that.  I think discipleship is a sliding scale like that.  Or, to use a term I like even better, it is a spectrum.

By nothing more than the very nature of things, the more you move toward one end of a spectrum, the more you move away from the other end of the spectrum and vice versa.  It is not puritanical, patriarchal, Victorian, or any other negative adjective that might be (and often are) thrown at it.  It is just the nature of things.

That being the case, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:30 about whoever not being for Him being against Him seems less harsh and much more sensible.  It is nothing more than a fact, nothing more than that sliding scale or spectrum.


And that, again, shows just how good and important this “lead us not into temptation” idea is.  Temptation is on the other side of the scale/spectrum from Jesus.  If we walk to it, we are not just “sinning”; we are moving away from Jesus, from God, from the Kingdom.  The central question, then, becomes not “What can I get away with?” (which was the question me and my peers were always asking in youth group” or “Why is God so black-and-white?”, but rather, “What side of the scale/spectrum do I want to be on?”

Or, to put it another way:


Every dog has his day.

As it turns out, every Doug has his day as well.  Such was the case for me last Friday at my congregation’s annual retreat (which for some reason we call an advance).  We invite other congregations to this advance, which we hold at the beautiful Alliance Redwoods campground.   We had men from at least four congregations there, maybe even more (I didn’t know everyone so I’m not sure where they all were from).

The theme I wanted us to focus on at this advance was “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”, one of the petitions our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to make in His “Model Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4 (also called “the Lord’s Prayer” and “the Our Father”).  I’ve been praying this prayer for years and have found that this particular petition has had a huge impact on my life.  I thought it and it’s mirror-image petitions found in other parts of the Bible (“He leadeth me beside still waters”, Psalm 23; “Lead us in the way everlasting”, Psalm 139) would be as helpful for the men as it was for me, so that’s what we talked about.  I took the “negative” in the first session, allowing the other pastors to speak on the “positives” on Saturday.  Here are my notes for that Friday night session:


As you can see, there isn’t a lot there for a 45 minute talk.  I basically “free form it” at the advance, just talking from a rough outline.  It isn’t hard to do as I’m always talking about discipleship, which is just the way I live and thus fairly easy to talk about without advance preparation.  The fact that the men usually interrupt me with questions and other ideas helps keep it moving, too.

During that lecture time, I came up with a phrase that I hadn’t engineered beforehand.  That phrase was “not-Kingdom”.  I came up with that as I was trying to explain that Jesus’ concern about not falling into temptation and/or walking in the way everlasting is not an example of “hand-wringing morality” (as I’ve often heard it called) but rather about “living into the Kingdom”.  I use the phrase “living into the Kingdom” a lot.  But that night, as I tried to express the same beautiful concept, I just somehow said “Jesus wants us to stay away from everything that is ‘not-Kingdom’.”

And the men loved that phrase.  One of the speakers the next day told the entire group that was the best thing I said that night (I thought I said some other worthy things as well, but, hey, I’ll take it!), and one of our guys told me last night he’s been thinking of that all week.  So that was the preacher equivalent of a home run.

But there is more to that phrase than just crowd-pleasing.  There is a truth there, a truth which is fairly foundational to discipleship.  This really is what sin is: something that is “not-Kingdom”, not like Christ, not of God, and thus detrimental, destructive, etc.  This really is why Jesus and God emphasize it so much, why They want us to stay away from or out of it so badly: it is the opposite of Them and Their ways.

And when you understand it that way, not only does the phrase “Lead us not into temptation” make more sense, but discipleship itself makes more sense.  It makes complete sense that God would want us to not walk in the things that are not-Kingdom/not-Him and to walk in the things that are-Kingdom/are-Him.  We’re not talking archaic patriarchal repression here (or any of the other silly things call the way of God).  We’re talking Kingdom here.  We’re talking God and the ways of God and the things of God.  We’re talking about what is right and good and healthy.

And it’s not just that understanding which is helpful.  It is that prayer/petition which is helpful.  I have greatly helped by praying to God “lead me out of what is not Kingdom”, whether that is obvious things like sexual immorality or less obvious things like anger, selfishness, competition, etc.  I have been greatly helped by praying to God “lead me into green pastures and beside still waters/lead me in the way everlasting”, whether that be obvious things like purity or less obvious things like peace-making, humility, acceptance.  It really has changed my life for the better.

I think it can do the same for us all.  “Not-Kingdom” might be a crude phrase, but it is a great one nonetheless, a phrase that reminds me who I am and what my life in Christ is all about.



I did my Evensong prayer last night as I do (almost) every night.  I started with the Scriptures from the Moravian reading, which, since I was accessing them from the Pacific time zone, were actually the next day’s Scriptures:


You’ll notice both the watchword (the Old Testament verse) and the doctrinal text (the New Testament verse) talk about newness or being made new.  The final prayer mentions redemption, which in this context likely referred to that same newness/being made new.  I reflected on those as I started my time of prayer, and as I did, the word repurposed came to mind.

Repurposed is not a word I would have known ten years ago.  I think I’ve learned it during the last decade through all the HGTV home renovation shows my wife is always watching.  But that was the word that came to me as I read and reflected.  And to be honest, when I came back to these Scriptures this morning, I wasn’t sure where I had gotten that term from.  I went to bed thinking it was right there in biblical black and white, but when I went back for a second look I discovered it wasn’t.

I do think the idea is there, though.  To be given a new heart, to receive a new spirit, to be made new by none less than God Himself, is to be repurposed.  God taking us out of the silly, shallow, stupid courses we were running and and refitting us to run in His Kingdom course is a repurposing.

That’s what I thought God was promising here, and even though it isn’t as lexically-clear as I initially thought it was, that is still what I think God is promising here.  It is also what I really want.  I really want to be repurposed by God.

Being A Spiritual Adult

A couple years ago, my mentors introduced me to the idea of “spiritual parents”.  It is one of our core disciple-making ideas (that is, it is the basic pattern we follow to make disciples).  They communicated this idea and the way it works in disciple-making with this picture:

Basically, they were saying disciple-makers function as spiritual parents, parenting the people they are discipling (we’ll save the predictable patterns and missional purpose ideas for another day).

Somewhere down the line, I started using the term “spiritual adult” instead of “spiritual parents”, at least some of the time.  I think I did this because I often find myself having to take the role of a spiritual parent with someone I am not discipling, maybe even someone who has no interest in being discipled.  “Spiritual adult” seemed to fit better in that circumstance.

Not only so, but spiritual adult also communicated another idea: how hard this was.  That has been my primary discovery about this reality.  Being an adult and/or a parent (and being a parent involves being an adult, of course) is hard.  Being an adult around children is hard.

But that hard thing is what the Lord has called His disciple-makers to do.  That hard thing is what the Lord Himself did, and thus that hard thing is the pattern we are to follow.  Our Lord talked about “sheep” (John 21), and unfortunately that is all some of His followers will ever be.  He also talked about “shepherds” (Acts 20:28; or His followers did; same thing), and that is what some of us sheep will become.  It is invariably harder.  Of course being the shepherd is harder than being the sheep.  Of course being the adult/parent is harder than being a child.  But it’s what we’ve been called to be.

And it’s what I want to be.  I was thinking about this as I was talking with some folks in my office recently.  One of them told me about a devotion she had read in which a father was teaching his daughter.  I told her that was a model for all of us.  Parenting doesn’t just happen; it is intentional.  That father was intentionally trying to get his daughter somewhere.  He was intentionally trying to get her to a place of understanding and maturity and ability.

And that is what the shepherds/parents/adults among us will do for the others.  God has a good place He is trying to get all His people to, and we shepherds/parents/adults will help those people get to that good place any way we can.  To put it another way, we will make positive contributions to their lives as much as we are able.  That is the trajectory of a disciple.  And it is not easy.  The woman who shared that devotion about the father and daughter with me told me that she was having trouble with that, and I don’t blame her.  I have trouble with it as well.  But it good.  Difficult or not, it is a good thing to be and be doing.

Consumption = Destruction

As I was driving into the office today, I was reminded of a sermon illustration I heard in Bible college.  I’m not sure why I was reminded of it, what triggered that particular memory.  I just was.  In the illustration, a man is walking past a demolition site where he sees workers tearing down a building.  Interested, he calls the foreman over and asks if the men are skilled laborers.  “No,” the foreman said.  “They are just general workers.  It takes skilled labor to build, but anyone can destroy.”

Yeah, that’s a little hokey.  It comes pretty close to the category I facetiously call “preacher story”, the kind of “true” stories preachers tell in sermons that are way to pointed to possibly be true.  If you need a more highbrow example of this same truth, though, I do have this quote:

Whether you take it from the sermon illustration or you take it from Maugham, the point stands: building is hard, requiring time and energy and skill, while destruction is easy.  Anybody can indeed destroy, which is yet another reason why destruction is so terrible.

What occurred to me as I was driving, though, is that many people (myself included, at least at times) don’t really fit into either camp.  They aren’t building and they aren’t destroying.  They are just consuming.  What further occurred to me as I was driving is that this seemingly middle option is no middle option at all.  Consumption isn’t different from destruction.  It is just a different form of destruction.  After all, what do you have after you have consumed?  Nothing but trash.

All things considered, this realization would have just been a neutral one, something interesting that crossed my mind.  It became far less neutral, though, when I realized that consumption is what many people are doing with The Faith today.   Many are consuming The Faith today, and thus destroying The Faith.

Can I give an example of that?  Sure I can.  How about the worship wars.  My home church had a blended style of worship from the beginning; we sang hymns as well as choruses.  So I was largely spared the worship wars.  I didn’t know there was such a thing until I went to Bible college.  Since then, I’ve seen them split congregations and turn brothers and sisters against each other.  And what is at the heart of the worship wars?  I’m not getting what I want or need or like.  It’s consumption, the desire to consume, pure and simple.

Image result for worship wars

As is always the case, though, when I point one finger at others I find three pointing back at me.  Yes, I’ve been a consumer as well.  I and many of my fellow ministers have been.  Consumption is one reason ministers leave their congregations.  It’s not the only possible reason, but it is a reason.  I would guess it is a big one.  The church isn’t big enough for them or growing fast enough for them.  The church people aren’t doing enough for them.  It can be worded in many ways (and sometimes it isn’t worded at all; sometimes the real reason is hidden and the move is blamed on God), but it still comes down to consumption.

Bills eventually come due, though.  The piper always has to be paid.  If we all keep consuming like this, there won’t be anything left.  Hey, I think Paul said something like that:


I have bitten and devoured.  I have consumed.  I have left churches not because God told me to but because they weren’t doing enough for me.  I repent of that now.  I want to do different in the future.  I want to be a skilled laborer.  I want to build.  I certainly don’t want to destroy, and I no longer want to simply consume (which is really the same thing).

And I’m looking for some people to join me in that.