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Aug 14

Part-time Christians?

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 in Journey of Discipleship

Part-time Christians?

Dear Friends in Christ,

I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I was being able to spend most of the week at WAPO with our kids in June.  It was a blessing to observe and experience God’s Spirit at work through the worship services and singing, Bible studies and devos, even at the Gaga Pit and 9-Square.  I got to listen in on kids talking about how the stories of the Bible connect with their daily lives and impact their faith.  I heard powerful, authentic prayers from surprising young mouths and hearts.
Selfishly, I love going to WAPO, because it is a spiritually uplifting experience for me.  But there was something different and sobering that came up this year at camp, which I have heard echoes of not only in our congregation and community, but across the country through the various ministry networks I am connected to.

It started during registration on Sunday afternoon, when I heard: “I’m so glad to be at camp, now I can get my God-fix for the year!

Yep, that is exactly what I heard.  ““Glad I’m at camp to get my God-fix for the year!”

I heard this same sentiment and attitude, not just from one young person, but from many.  Not just from incredibly busy high school kids, but from middle school and elementary school kids too.

Being a Christian, growing in faith, living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something that, in their own words and self-perception, they do one week a year!  Are we raising “Part-time Christians?”  Are we becoming “Part-time Christians?”

The numbers seem to reinforce this disturbing reality!

Before going further, here’s little word about the difference between guilt and shame, for a culture full of people that fears and avoids guilt, from researcher Brene Brown:

GUILT = I did something bad.

SHAME = I am bad.

Guilt is good and necessary to help us clarify our values and morals as opposed to our behaviors and attitudes, which leads, hopefully, to changing our lives and priorities, and growing to maturity.
Are we guilty of being Part-time Christians?  YES.

Are we guilty of making Part-time Christians?  YES.

When Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you,” he does not necessarily mean spend more time at church, or attend more meetings.  HOWEVER, the faith practices of regular (meaning more than once a month, or once a year) worship, prayer, praise, learning, serving, giving, and connecting with other Christians, is a critically significant part of what it means to ABIDE IN JESUS!  Abiding in Jesus Christ, is about a daily, life-long relationship in, with, and through Him.  It is not a part-time relationship!

The question and issue for us individually is: what do you need to START doing and STOP doing, so that you, and your family, can abide in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and bear fruit for God’s Kingdom in every day in every way?

Here is a prescription for treating “Part-time Christian-itis” (none of which are my original ideas):

  1. Worship regularly, expecting God to show up and touch you in some way.
  2. Practice faith at home every night in every home! (see Rich Melheim’s resources)
    1. Have family “candle time” (see Lyle Griner’s resources – especially his new “candle time” resource!)
    2. Share your highs and lows
    3. Read a portion of scripture
    4. Talk about how it might relate to your highs, lows, and daily life
    5. Pray for each other (thanks for the Highs, help for the Lows)
    6. Bless each other (make the sign of the cross on your foreheads)
  3. Serve others, through the church, school, work, or community.
  4. Give generously both to support the ministries of the church, but also good causes that positively impact people’s lives and creation.
  5. Get involved with a small group or some other ministry to connect with other Christians for mutual support and care.

The harder question, for me, is how do we as the church need to change too?  What do we as the church need to START doing and STOP doing, so that everyone, active disciples, part-time disciples, and even seekers and visitors, can abide in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and bear fruit for God’s Kingdom in every day in every way?  Perhaps in the process of growing in our faith habits together, and listening deeply to God and the stories, hopes, dreams, and hurts of others, God will change our hearts and show the way.

Nov 3

“Lazarus, wake up!” Yes, Lord, I’m trying to wake up.

Posted on Saturday, November 3, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

Hazy sounds and visions fill my head, in and out of a restless sleep.  Moist, cool cloths caress my forehead, but I am still so hot.  So tired.  I hear, “Is he coming?  Is he on his way yet?”  My sister, Mary.  Insistent.  Eagerly angry for an affirmative answer.  ”The messenger isn’t back yet,” consoles Martha, trying to remain hopeful.

Breathing is so hard.  I’m so tired.  Voices so far away, I’m at the bottom of a cave, or on the other side of a hill hearing my family and friends looking for me, but I can’t speak, “here I am.”  So tired.  It’s so dark, so cold.  A vague touch, a hollow sound, “Lazarus, we love you.”  Nothing.

Waking from a deep, deep sleep, I hear a voice.  Where am I?  Why can’t I move?  Dark!  I can’t see.  Feel so stiff.  That voice!  Jesus?  He came!  Where are you, Jesus?

“Lazarus, come out!”  Oh, yes, that’s Jesus alright!  Come out from where?  Shuffling my feet off this cold, hard bed.  Where am I anyway?  I muffle, “Jesus, I’m coming,” as something is wrapped around my face and mouth.  Shuffle faster, the Master is calling my name!

“Unbind him!”  Hands and voices and bright light!  Pulling, tugging at me, while people are crying, laughing, screaming, hollering!  What do they mean, “He’s alive?”  Just let me wake up, I’ve been sick you know.  But I don’t feel sick anymore.  I feel great!  See what a good night sleep can do for a person?

Dead?  Me?  Four days?  That smell was, is, me?  Oh, my, God!  I need to sit down.

There he is, smiling at me.  Yet, sad and worried too.  Jesus, what did you do to me?  What did you do for me?  What will it cost you?  Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, my Life, thank you.  I fall at his feet.  I’m awake now!  With all my heart, with all my life, thank you Jesus!  Why are you still crying, Jesus?  I’m awake now.

Oct 2
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Daily spiritual vitamins!

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

Are you one of those people who take a vitamin every day?  I know a lot of people who take a vitamin or two every day to take care of their health.  There are a lot of people who have developed the good habit of regular exersize, again to be physically healthy.  People are changing their diets to eat more healthy, and to loose weight.  People are even changing their beds so that they can be more healthy with good sleep.  We try to do all sorts of things to keep us physically healthy.

One of the things we at Christus Victor Lutheran are doing is focusing on our spiritual health; the spiritual health of our whole church, and the groups and individuals that are part of this Christian community.  We are working on identifying what we can do to improve our spiritual health?  Let me be clear about what I mean by spiritual health: I mean our relationship with God, and, flowing from our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, with those around us, and even the world around us.  The Church Health/NCD Process talks about Passionate Spirituality: the degree to which faith is actually lived out with commitment, passion, and enthusiasm.”

This will be an important process for our church for the coming years, to focus our attention and energy on becoming a healthy congregation.

But, I’ve been wondering if we should also ask ourselves a question: “What are you/what am I doing about your/my spiritual health?”  After you mull that over a little bit, I have an experiment/challenge I’d like you to try, along with the 3rd Grade families of CV, who are currently going through the Faith Stepping Stone Bible Class.  The 3rd Graders and their families are trying to develop a new spiritual health habit – taking a SPIRITUAL VITAMIN every day!  This means that they are going to get together for  5 to 10 minutes every day to SHARE their highs and lows, READ a verse or more of scripture (the spiritual vitamin), TALK about how God’s Word connects with their life, PRAY for each other, and BLESS each other.  To give them some help and direction, the 3rd graders have been busily highlighting 122 Bible verses from Genesis to Revelation, including the favorite Bible verses of grandparents, parents, godparents, aunts and uncles, and other faith mentors in their life.  That’s over 122 days of Spiritual Vitamins!

So, do you need/want to take your own daily Spiritual Vitamin?  If so, I’d like to help you get started, and build in some accountability to the practice.  Email me at and I will send you the first 30 Spiritual Vitamins FOR FREE!  (yeah, I know they’re free anyway, just trying to get your attention).  Then you email me back with an update of how it is going, what you are learning and experiencing in your Spiritual Health, and I’ll send you the next 30 Spiritual Vitamins, and so on, and so on, and so on.  Once you’re developed your Spiritual Vitamin habit we can talk about other resources for your Spiritual Vitamins, as you will probably want to move onto Spiritual Food (deeper Bible study).  So, there you have it, a challenge, an invitation, and offer of FREE help and resources!  What are you waiting for?  Send me that email now!


Aug 21

Nicodemus and Jesus – Why I have a spiritual director

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night…” (John 3: 1-2)

I’ve been seeing all of the facebook posts of our youth who are going off to college, or heading off to the military, or starting new jobs this fall.  The young women and men are both excited and nervous.  Parents are dealing with the ups and downs as well, varying from, “Yey, there’re gone,” to, “Oh my gosh, they’re gone.” 

These young people may have graduated from high school, but they know that their learning and growing isn’t over.  They’ve still got a lot to learn and understand in order to be good at whatever they are going to do, whether that is in bi0-chemistry, the marines, medicine , or accounting.  In fact they will never be done learning and growing.  If you think you know it all, learned it all, then I am sorry to say, you are in big trouble before you even get started. 

Nicodemus was a highly educated Pharisee, a teacher, and leader of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council.  Nicodemus had reached the pinnacle of power and influence in his religion and culture, he knew it all!  Or did he?  For all of his knowledge, all of his vast experience, when he heard about the signs that Jesus was doing and what Jesus was teaching about God, he knew he needed to learn more.  When the Gospel of John tells us Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, it is also a play on words, meaning that Nicodemus was in the dark (*see John 3: 19-21 on darkness and light).  Nicodemus, knew that he didn’t know, or understand, and so he humbled himself to go to Jesus to ask questions and to continue to learn, so that he could draw closer to God.

That is why I go to visit with my spiritual director and spiritual direction group every month (I miss a few).  So that I can draw closer to God.  Our spiritual group spends time listening to what God is doing, and perhaps what God is trying to say to us, as we share what is going on in our own lives and our own faith walk with Jesus.  We ask questions.  We listen to each other, and we learn to spend time in silence listening to God. 

Someone once said that we can only lead people as far as we ourselves have gone, which is especially true in the life of faith.  If I am not continually learning and growing, not only will I not be very helpful to others in their faith journey, I am not being a very good model of faithful discipleship for others.  To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is by definition to be a person who learns and grows every day in their knowledge, their understanding, and living out in daily life their relationship with God.

What are you going to do this coming year to continue to learn and grow as a follower of Jesus, and draw closer to God?

May 23

Worshipping God is how you live your life!

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

I was at a funeral today for the mom of a good friend of mine.  It was both a sad and joyous time as we celebrated her life, thanked God for the innumerable ways her life reflected the love of Jesus Christ, and that her pain and suffering from cancer is over as she now is at rest in the embrace of her loving Savior.  In the middle of the sermon, the pastor (my friend and colleague, Pastor Kristine Wenzel) said, “Worshipping God is how you live your life.  It is not just about coming to church on Sunday, but how you give glory to God every day in how you live your life, how you serve others and show others  your faith.” 

And that got me thinking about the summer.  Why?  Because summer is the time when we Minnesotans, who love summer, get busier than ever!  I thought fall, winter, and spring (the proverbial school year) was busy enough.  Summer is just crazy!  And when schedules get crazy, coming to worship on Sunday morning, or even a Wednesday evening for Recharge worship (June 20, July 18, & August 22!), gets bumped off the calendar.  Hey, we in the church even plan for it, by cutting back on our worship services.  Only 30-34% of our members attend worship on an average Sunday during the school year, and during the summer that drops to around 20%.  (We’re about average for churches across America, unfortunately).

But what if worshipping God was more than coming to a worship service?  What if worshipping God is how we live our lives?  That actually makes it much more of a challenge than trying to come to worship 30% of the time! 

When Jesus called us to be His disciples and to follow Him, he didn’t mean just 1 hour a week, or for the average Christian in America, 1 hour a month!  Being a disciple, living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a 24/7/365 way of life.  And if that is the case (and it is!) then perhaps I/we’ve got some serious rethinking and reimaging to do about what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and how we do church together, worshipping God through how we live our lives!

The paradox is, that as we begin to live our faith this way, coming together with other Christians to hear God’s Word, pray to the Lord, sing praises to God, and to receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through the Bread and the Wine, will become way more important than it has been before.  As we worship God with our lives, we need to come to church to be Fed and Forgiven, Renewed and Recharged for living as disciples of Jesus Christ.  We simply cannot do it any other way. 

If you have some thoughts, questions, or ideas to share, I’d love to hear from you, and maybe set up a time to grab a cup of java and sit outside enjoying the summer together as we worship God with our lives.

Apr 17
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Storing Treasures in Heaven, part 3: fasting

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!

I had to start that way because I fully meant to write this down during Lent, but then, well, Lent and Holy Week and Easter preparations took over.  For those of you who were actually reading these posts, sorry.  I guess you could say it was a forced fast from writing.  Which is really a lead in to some thoughts on fasting, especially in light of Easter…

Fasting usually means giving something up for a set period of time.  A lot of people fast during Lent, trying to give up chocolate, or pop (soda for you non-Minnesota types), candy, beer or alcohol, or something that is bad for you that you’ve been meaning to cut out of your diet for the sake of your physical health.  But that kind of misses the point, doesn’t it?  While fasting is usually giving up physical things, it is for a spiritual purpose!  It is for the sake of our spiritual health, our relationship with God, not for our waistline!

I did not intend to fast from writing these reflections on faith, other demands on my time and energy took precedence.  And they were all good and important things (mostly), but they were not necessarily the best things or the most important things.  Which is what fasting is all about: giving up, letting go of the merely good and important (or should I say “urgent”), so we can focus our time, energy, and attention on the best, the most important, which is our relationship with God (or better said, God’s relationship with us through Jesus Christ!).

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is not limited to the season of Lent, which I know will bum many people out.  And it’s not just about fasting from food.  Maybe you need to fast from TV or video games, facebook or email, talking non-stop on your cell phone or texting all of the time.  Maybe you need to cut out some of the activities in your life and the life of your family.  The question is: what keeps you from focusing your attention and spending time with God, to nurture your faith and understanding?  This isn’t a once a year question, it is at the very heart of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Feb 26
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Storing treasures in heaven: Part 2 – praying

Posted on Sunday, February 26, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

“And whenever you pray…” (Jesus, Matt. 6: 5&7)

The issue is not IF you are going to pray, but how and why are you going to pray.  Jesus assumes that people of God will pray; want and need to pray/talk/listen and connect with God.  The question is do you want and need to pray in order to talk/listen and connect with God, or to impress others or to impress yourself?  Do not be like the hypocrites [actors]; for they love to stand and pray…so that they may be seen by others” (Matt. 6:5).   “Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt. 6:7).

If you are not praying why not?  If you have trouble praying,  just start praying the Lord’s Prayer, which is Jesus’ suggestion and invitation!  (Matt. 6: 9-13) 

“We do not want to be beginners [at prayer]. but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!” – Thomas Merton
Feb 23
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Storing treasures in heaven: Part 1 – Almsgiving

Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2012 in Journey of Discipleship

“So, when you give alms…” (Jesus, Matthew 6: 2)

The question is not IF you are going to give financial and other kinds of help to people in need, the question is WHAT IS YOUR ATTITUDE AND INTENTION while you are giving and helping others.  Who do you know, who have you heard, who have you seen in need?  What’s getting in the way of helping them?  Oh, and if you are not giving or helping anyone, I think Jesus might ask you to look inside your heart and mind to see what kind of attitude adjustment is needed.

“…and your Father who sees in secret [the attitude of your heart and mind], will reward you.”

Jan 30
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In Memoriam – Pastor George Miner

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012 in Male Spirituality

Pastor George Miner was my internship supervisor at Community Lutheran Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.  He died last week from cancer.

A true mentor is someone who believes in you, challenges you, pushes you, sees things within you that you don’t see in yourself, allows you to fail, and then helps you learn from your mistakes and try again (if you are willing to listen and change).  A mentor gives you space to grow, space to become who God created, gifted, and called you to be.  Pastor George Miner was a true spiritual mentor to me, and to many, many other people.  His mentorship and the lessons he taught me during my internship at Community Lutheran Church, a crucial year of my life and ministry, continue to shape and mold me.   In the years since serving CLC, when I have gotten lost in the wilderness because of my failures, or tempted to quit the journey altogether in the face of disappointments, I’d remember George, then say a prayer asking for God’s grace in my heart, put a song of praise on my lips, lace up my boots, tighten my pack, and keep going wherever God’s Voice would lead.  Backpacking metaphors always seem to arise when I think of Pastor George.

Pastor George showed me what it meant to have a passion for following God, especially by observing his interactions with people.  His ability to sweep people up into his enthusiasm and excitement for living the life of faith, ever growing and learning to be Jesus’ disciples in the world, was amazing to behold.  To say that George had an indomitable spirit would be an understatement.  To follow Pastor George was to experience first hand the power of the Holy Spirit in his life, not to mention the importance of a good cup of coffee.  OK, maybe not “good” coffee, just coffee, any coffee, and a lot of it!  Even if that meant drinking instant coffee grounds mixed with cold water while on the trail backpacking, bringing a new meaning to the term, “true grit.”

Of all of the wonderful opportunities and experiences serving, preaching, teaching, and growing while at Community Lutheran Church, I most looked forward to my weekly one-on-one meetings with George.  I cherished that special time I got to have with him.  I am sure the seminary gave him a handbook of topics and questions to cover, but he always seemed to have more important things to discuss.  After grabbing some more coffee, he’d close the door to his office and start talking about where and how God was working in the lives of the people in the church, and where God was leading this community of believers in ministry and mission together.  As he’d get more and more excited, his gestures would get more and more excited, splattering coffee all over the place!  But whatever the topic, issue, or ministry agenda item we discussed, Jesus Christ as always at the center; George made sure of that, for Jesus was at the center of his life, and it showed in who he was and in all he did. 

I thank God for the life, the friendship, and the ministry of George Miner, for the chance to hike along with him for just a little while.  And I hope we will all take with us the memories and lessons he taught, wherever the trail leads, until that day when we meet again on a heavenly mountain vista that will make the beauty and grandeur of the Emigrant wilderness look like a cheap copy (if you can imagine that!).  God be with you George, until we meet again.

Dec 20
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What do you really know about the Christmas story of the Bible?

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 in Journey of Discipleship

CHRISTMAS QUIZ… (there may be prizes)

  • Which Gospel does not include the birth of Jesus?  (extra point: where does the story start?_________)
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John
  • Who was born first, Jesus or John the Baptist?
    • Jesus
    • John the Baptist
  • How are John the Baptist and Jesus related?
    • Step-brothers
    • Neighbors
    • Cousins
    • BFFs
  • What were the names of John the Baptist’s parents?  (extra point: In which Gospel?_______)
    • Sonny & Cher
    • Ole & Lena
    • Zechariah & Elizabeth
    • Abraham & Sarah
  • What were the names of Jesus’ parents?
    • Zeus & Hera
    • Lady Gaga & Jay-Z
    • Joseph & Mary
    • Joseph & Martha
  • In which Gospel does the angel visit Joseph?  (extra point:  How did the angel visit Joseph? _______)
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John 
  • In which Gospel does the angel visit Mary?
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John
  • What did the angel say to the shepherds?  (extra point: in which Gospel? ________)
    • “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Jesus is coming to town!”
    • “Wake up!  Take these diapers to Mary and Joseph, now!”
    • “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
  • How many wise men visited Jesus?  (extra point: Which Gospel, what chapter? _________)
    • Three
    • One
    • Thirteen
    • The Bible doesn’t say
  • Who did they think Jesus was?
    • He was the Son of God.
    • He was a famous musician.
    • He was the king of the Jews.
    • He was a space alien
  • How did the wise men find Jesus?
    • They followed the map.
    • They followed their GPS.
    • They followed a star.
    • They followed Lassie.
  • The word for wise men is “magi.”  What are magi?
    • Magicians
    • Jewish Ninjas
    • Astrologers
    • Kings
  • What gifts did the wise men bring to Jesus?
    • Gold, frankfurters, and mustard
    • Gold, Frankenstein, and Marshmallows
    • Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
    • Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree
  • Bonus Points:  What do the three gifts signify?
    • Gold: ______________________________
    • Frankincense: _______________________________
    • Myrrh: _______________________________
  • Which Gospel tells the Christmas story by saying, “the Word became flesh and lived among us”?
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John
  • Where was Jesus born?
    • Nazareth
    • Jerusalem
    • Bethlehem
    • Galilee

May you all have a very merry and joyous Christmas!