No Election Required

No Election Required
This is a guest blog post by Dan Wolgemuth. He had shared this on Facebook first. It had great impact on me and I asked him if I could share it here. He graciously agreed. Thank you Dan!

At last check there were somewhere around 20 candidates aspiring to be the next President of the United States.

In the early days of campaigning, these individuals look for ways to differentiate themselves from the crowded field. Each speech, every public encounter, and nearly all of their interactions are carefully scrutinized, evaluated and commented on.

Political philosophy and personal values are squeezed out of each written or spoken sentence. Questions swirl and answers are evaluated. Words illuminate. Speeches inform.

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My Routines Build Me Up And Tear Me Down

I hate mornings. I can hardly get my body and brain to engage. I used to be a morning person. Not so much now. The challenge of falling asleep manifests itself, in an even greater way, in the morning.

As I try to wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, with the hope that my wake up time is still many hours away. Squint-eyed I try to make out the time. I shower, brush my teeth, get dressed… Coffee

I have a routine that is forced. A lot of the things, I just have to do. I have many other routines; recurring things. I have rhythms I’m forced to change sometimes because life just happens. Something unexpected, a fuller diary, crises…

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Spur Others On

God has given me & other Christ-followers a responsibility to each other. As part of His body we’re responsible to spur each other into good works.

This means I must be open to accept challenges to mature from my fellow Christ Followers. It also means that I mustn’t be so caught up in myself that I don’t make time to think of ways motivating others to acts of love and other good deeds.

I don’t get into relationship with God by good works but I am in relationship with Him also FOR good works

On Starting “I Am Jonah”

I’ve been blogging for a while. Not here but on my other blog. When I was starting out on the other blog I knew I wanted to write about life and leadership as well as journey as a Christ follower.

Having blogged for a while I realized that was too much to load onto one blog. At least for me. I don’t like clutter.

I also felt I needed to have a unique expression of my faith that would resonate, be relevant to the journey of other people also.

I had no desire to have another typical ‘devotional-type’ blog. There are enough “devotional-type packed” blogs. At least for me. This blog “I Am Jonah” took a while to develop. Perhaps I should say for me to put enough “handle” on the concept and theme to start working on it.

I Am Jonah” is not a unique concept. I knew some people or churches ran series on this. I was intentional in avoiding checking out what they had done because I didn’t want to taint the ideas I had. In fact, I still haven’t checked out how other people have expressed their concept of “I Am Jonah”.

I hesitated and tried to develop the theme “just a little more”… In the end, it was the actual doing that would tell whether the theme could be pulled off and if it could be relevant. So I decided to stop conceptualizing and just get to it.

There must always come a time of action. Nothing changes until something changes.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over two decades but there has never been a time I have felt like I still need to grow more than now. I Am Jonah is a part of journaling my journey as I, in a sense, start again in my walk with God.

While capturing some of my challenges as I walk with God, I also incorporate stories of other people who are following Christ and still learning to follow like I am.

At the moment most of the conversations either happen offline, for people that I’m fortunate to connect with offline. Another place conversations seem to happen is on the social network I publicize posts on. For instance, someone follows a link from Facebook, reads the post on the blog and returns to comment on the referring network.

I’m obviously not telling the complete story. There will be more snippets into the story of I Am Jonah and the blog itself as I continue to journal with an audience as well as capture others’ stories.

If you haven’t already, do check out the blog post why I Am Jonah here, which also tells a part of the story behind this blog. You can also check out some of the other reasons I blog check out the post “Unmasked” on my other blog here.

Pagan Christianity?: A Review

This was a book I never rushed to finish. Partly because I have been reading other books and working on my theology assignments. The other part of it is that I wanted to be careful to take as much in and reflect on some of the things put forward by Frank Viola and George Barna.

It is apparent that Pagan Christianity? is well thought out, researched and crafted. It was not “slap dash” work. Frank and George do communicate a heart for the Church as God intended. It is clear they have a sound understanding of the Church and her purpose.

Thus they wrote the book to explore practices that have been or are compromising the Church. This is a worthwhile endeavor. How the Church does things can detract and or compromise her identity and mission. Pagan Christianity? highlights the birth of some practices.

Frank and George highlight how they can and do compromise the identity and mission of the Church. They highlight some practices as originating from pagan worship. Man-made.

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They are upfront with not being agreed with. The publisher also gives a disclaimer. They make it clear that by publishing the book they’re not endorsing nor do they necessarily share the same opinions as the authors.

With that, there are areas that I don’t agree with Frank and George. They believe in the Church, the ecclesia, or gathering and community of believers to be organic. On this I agree with. However, I almost get the impression that “organic” is synonymous with house Church.

House churches are the story of the early church. They are not irrelevant now, but my take is that they may not be practical in all contexts. The object, for me, is not the venue, it is what the gatherings should produce, the purpose of the gatherings.

They must produce Christ mature Christ followers. This means that they are like Christ in both likeness and works. For example, Pagan Christianity? discourages a lack of Church buildings. One of the reasons is that they end up consuming a significant amount of funds and placing an undue burden on congregations.

I believe there must be a balance here. In some instances buildings, as venues and not sacred spaces, enable permanence, and consistency. In some instances due to modern life, it is difficult to run house Church or use other buildings or venues such as community halls etc.

With this my take is that the purpose of everything must remain clearly visible. (I am not saying Frank and George advocate ambiguity).

I’m a strong believer in the priesthood of all believers. I believe everyone in the Church, the body of Christ, has a role to play in her edification, so that as a collective and individuals, we become more like Christ.

There are principles on the identity and the mission of God through the Church that cannot and must never be violated.

I could go on and highlight a few more things. However, it might be more pertinent to communicate what I feel makes the heart of the book.

The most important take away from the book is that we look at the expression of our relationship with God. As individuals and community of believers.

We must constantly assess how and why we are doing things in the light of God’s word. We must be clear about the impact of all our practices and make sure that it enables community and maturity in the faith, producing Christ like people. A scripturally sound Church.

We must examine the origin of some practices against the backdrop of whether it enables growth of Christ followers, the mission of the Church and the glory of God.

I would recommend reading Pagan Christianity. However, that it must be read with openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of all practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends.

I’d recommend reading it in a non-prescriptive way but facilitating conversation and reflection. Frank and George present their case and rest at saying readers must discern for themselves steps they need to be taking.

Ultimately an important thing to do is listening to what God’s Spirit says to you. Ultimately, and most importantly, no one’s opinion or perspective must eclipse God’s.

Again, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity with an openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of and our practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends. Read in a non-prescriptive way but for the purposes of facilitating conversation and reflection.

[affiliate link to book]

Not Talking To The Guy Next To Me In Church

Church, rather the worship at church, is about to start. The countdown on the large screen is ticking too slowly for me. Every ticking second is excruciating and can’t pass fast enough so I can get over the awkwardness with the guy sitting next to me. We’ve just mumbled something to each other.

Wait, did we just pretend to exchange greetings? Not really. I think we wanted to greet each other but weren’t sure what made an appropriate greeting. It’s the first time we’ve sat next to each other in church. I’m thinking, “should I take the conversation further? Is he thinking perhaps we should be saying something more to each other than just the grunts we just exchanged?”

We’re “in church” and frankly, I don’t feel like or want to talk to the guy next to me [Click to Tweet]

What should we talk about? He’s a little older… What do we have in common? Do I really want to start another conversation like the one I just had in the foyer with the woman at the door? Yet another brief chat about the seasons change? No!

May be the guy next to me would like to talk but the phone in my hand is doing its job in keeping him from saying anything. A nice wall. I’d rather chat to someone in another part of town or the world than this guy.

not talking to the guy next to me in church

sitting next to a guy in church but I’m not really there

 

Does he want to talk or is he glad I’ve taken away the pressure of the chat through the focus on my phone?

Should we talk? What should we talk about? The countdown has only gone down by thirty lazy seconds. Can’t the band stop being slaves to the countdown and start with the music? They are ready, aren’t they?

Do they really have to hold hands and mumble final prayers on the side of the stage just to make sure God’s Spirit is with them as they do what they’re going to do in the meeting. Weren’t the prayers they prayed at rehearsals enough? Perhaps they just want to be double sure.

There’s still five minutes on the countdown. What could talk to the guy next to me about? Am I obligated to speak to him? I’m just here for church not for another meaningless conversation with another guy I might get to next to again in a year.

Wait, did I just say I came for church? Then am I missing the point?

What if I asked him how him and his family were doing? I mean not like how I asked the man in the car park, as a greeting, without even pausing for his response. But really asked how he was doing and I prayed with him of he needed prayer.

Maybe something great is happening in his life and he’s looking for someone to share how good God had been on his life and that could be one of the ways he glorifies God today?

Maybe if I talked to Him I might hear God answering some of the questions I asked him this week. Maybe?

Gee, I can’t believe I’m so impatient to have church instead of being the church with the guy next to me. How many opportunities have I missed to be the Church when I’ve come to church? How many people in this hall are having the same experience and thoughts I am right now?

Isn’t community about interacting with fellow followers of the Way and not just standing next to each other singing the words on the screen? I’m not saying we shouldn’t sing, I’m just wondering if I’ve made that the object and overlooked the other experiences God has for others and me.

What if God wanted me to sit next to this guy so that our interaction enriches both of us and He is glorified through that?

Is this dude next to me thinking what I’m thinking of just wondering why the countdown is being beat by snails? Maybe he’s thinking the stage guys have put too much smoke on stage today.

Uhm…

How can I claim to be a part of the community of believers when I’m not even making effort to be community? Everyone has a bad day; today is my turn to have one and not be bothered. Jesus, I’m sure you understand. Right?

Oh we’ll, I was about to start the conversation but the band just started the first song. It’s not like I can ask this gentleman to step into the foyer and tell him I’m sorry for shutting him out and I just didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

I’m so impatient to have church instead of being the church with the guy next to me [Click to Tweet]

I mean we’re here to worship God so why would I want to distract this guy? Will I regret not talking to this guy after the meeting? During the week? How long will the guilt last. Perhaps a week like when I didn’t talk to the woman in last week’s meeting. But with her I didn’t want to interrupt her checking her emails on her iPad before the meeting started.

Oops, I’ve been calling this a meeting; it should be “worship experience”. I should go back and edit this. Wait, what have I done by not talking to this man? Should I feel guilty? Have I failed God? Or failed this man?

Should I talk to the guy sitting next to me in Church? [Click to Tweet]

Ah… I wish I were sitting next to my friend on the other side. Gee, this third song needs to come down a couple of keys for the entire congregation to be able to sing. Is that a typo on the screen?

I’m still feeling bad for not talking to this guy but hopefully he’ll get over it…

What if my internal conflict and the question of speaking to this guy is God sending me? Am I running?

[Photo Credit: amslerPIX]

Not Marked; When I’m Not Sent

God sends me. He gives me assignments. I’m still humbled and trying to make sense of that. If you’ve been following I Am Jonah you should know, by now, how humbling I feel in this regard.

When God gives me assignments something about me is revealed. More than me, but He is also revealed. It is through cracked vessels God’s light shines. It is in our humanness and frailty that God’s treasure is not only kept but also shared with others.

There are instances when God sends me and there are assignments that aren’t for me. God has His purposes for sending me when He does and sending others too. I need to be reminded, from time to time, that I am not the center of it. That it is not because I am great that God sends, but it is by His grace.

When there is a need and God doesn’t send me I am sometimes jealous of other people’s assignments. At other times I am glad, grateful that He sent someone else. Some of those times it is because I can see the need and hurt but don’t understand it.

The truth is, I may be a Christ follower, but I don’t identify with everyone’s challenges, hurts and pains. I identify more with some than others. I do pray that God helps me to see and love others the way He does. I am not there and don’t think that I will attain perfection at any point in this life.

God is sometimes gives me a minute taste and I wish I hadn’t asked when He answers my prayers. God feels deeply for the broken, marginalized and hurting.

When the hurting pray, God responds by sending us [Click to Tweet]

God has sent Mary DeMuth. Mary has written many books (I only learnt how to count to ten, and after that it just becomes many for me). She has submitted her gift with words to God and He has used that. I personally know many whose lives have been changed through her work.

not marked

She is sent to people I cannot identify with. To people who I know are hurting but I’m not equipped to help the way she can. Her assignment is one of those I’m glad and grateful I did not receive. A difficult one. Mary has written a book, Not Marked. It is about her journey, dealing with sexual abuse, how it impacted her life and how she found healing.

Because I am not able to do what Mary can I have chosen to do the little I can to help her. Through her book many lives will find healing and be restored. Because it is not directly your assignment, it doesn’t mean you cannot be a part of it.

Help Mary get this book to people you and I cannot reach. Help bring healing to millions.

The assignments God gives us affect us, but are not just for us [Click to Tweet]

Though we benefit from being sent, we are not the object of God’s assignments; others are [Click to Tweet]

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Update: Mary managed to reach and exceed her target. Because of that she her book will be able to reach more people in other ways. Follow her blog for details.

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ME | What The Assignments God Gives Reveal (Part 1)

The Bible is full of real stories, with real people who faced real challenges. They had real shortcomings, real failure and real success. This is the heart of I Am Jonah, to make following Christ and the challenges in staying on that path real.

God has assignments for everyone. Even Jonah, that guy who God knew would meander on the way his assignment, got an assignment.

Most of the things God has given to me as assignments have been beyond me. Even after a while of being in the assignment I continue to doubt myself. I guess it is good in some regards.

Looking back at some of the assignments He’s given me I see there are a number of things that were revealed.

ME | What Assignments God gives reveal

it’s humbling that God uses me…

 

 

Every time someone gets an assignment from God something is uncovered…

Self

The assignments God gives us reveal us to ourselves. In the face of the assignment we become aware of frailty. Our shortcomings glare at us. And when this happens most use them as an excuse not to do what God says.

There is something about the nature of the assignments God gives us that make us examine ourselves first. It is human nature; I guess it is nature to always check if we measure up, if we’re adequate for the task.

There are times I’ve wrestled with selfish ambition. To be honest, every now and then I have to deal with it, over and over. I guess with each assignment I see something ungodly about me that should disqualify me from the assignment.

I sometime think, “If only God knows that I…” then I remember that He knows. But He still asks me. He doesn’t really ask, that’s just courtesy, He sends me.

He knows it’s going to be a fight for me to stop seeing my lack of wisdom, clarity and self-imposed inadequacy as barrier, yet He still sends, me.

He knows I’m going mess up. In fact, He might be just sending me from the mess I am.

Sometimes I feel like Isaiah as God sent him, unclean. Unworthy. At other times I see the giants the assignment demands I confront and I want to run, but He still chooses me.

I wonder if God knows that I don’t like the people He’s sending me to. Sometimes it’s the place and at other times the conditions.

As He sends me I realize how comfortable I am and how much I want to stay in that comfort. There are times His assignments have revealed how much I want to hold onto stuff. How attached I am to some stuff.

There are times I’ve hesitated to follow God into the unknown because I was too scared I would mean I’d miss out on some things I liked.

God’s call on me has uncovered some of the things I placed worth or value in.

I don’t know exactly what, but there is something about God’s assignments that force introspection. I guess one of the questions underlying the introspection is, “Am I good enough”.

Then again, If God asks, no sends me, doesn’t that say I am? It says I am good enough for the assignment. As messed up and ignorant and weak as I am. I am good enough.

One of the saddest things though is difficulty in believing it. The scary thing: God trusts me enough to send me.

I want to follow Jesus, the Christ. I follow Him and yet every time I receive an assignment from Him I have to relearn that if He sends, I’m the man for the job. My responsibility is to go.

You’ve just read this but I think I’ll say it again; perhaps you’re in the same space:

I don’t know exactly what, but there is something about God’s assignments that force introspection. I guess one of the questions underlying the introspection is, “Am I good enough”.

Then again, If God asks, no sends me, doesn’t that say I am? It says I am good enough for the assignment. As messed up and ignorant and weak as I am. I am good enough.

One of the saddest things though is difficulty in believing it. The scary thing: God trusts me enough to send me.

I guess one of the reasons I doubt myself is simple. I Am Jonah. And I have to keep reminding myself, If God is sending me then I am good enough.

Making Sense Of… | Jonah Notes #01

Jonah notes is about highlighting anything noteworthy fitting into the I Am Jonah theme. This is the first (hopefully of many) of summaries of things worth noting.

The series will focus on things that we need to grapple with, in search for alignment with what God expects of me, of us, as Christ followers.

juniper tree

The Meaning Of Christian Community

This was a post by Joel J. Miller, author of Lifted by Angels. His post, “What does ‘Christian’ community mean?” raises the question of how we are to be part of the community of believers.

What is the place for our preferences in light of the community? He asks: “But what can community actually mean if the individual is ultimate?”

Check out his post here

The Perfect Way To Do Church

Related to Joel’s post, Carlos Whittaker says, “I found the secret… THE PERFECT WAY to do church…” Carlos is a worship leader and has served in a large Church and varied contexts.

Carlos raises a point, which I feel we need to attention to. He makes what I think is the ultimate and most important point but I won’t spoil it for you. Check out the post.

The Pig Prayer

The legend, Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, asks, “I read the Bible and scoff in dismay at people who cared more about their pigs than the healing of two demon possessed men. “How could they be so blind?”

He closes his post, by stating how torn apart He is between what God wants and how he wrestles. Oh, and the title of his post? “The Pig Prayer“.

On I Am Jonah

The most shared post was “Why I Am Jonah” which introduced the blog, journal, whatever you want to call it. It gave a general “why” for this blog, explaining the rift that sometimes exists between God’s desire for us and hour desires.

Someone Else’s Skateboard” was a glimpse into the reality of temptation, which some Christians will not give.

Similar to themes of Carlos and Joel’s post, incidentally I wrote before I saw the posts was “The Church: Loving Her While Hating Her Practices“. The post touched on the challenge of separating what the Church from her practices.

Outro

It is comforting to see how real others are about their faith and things they’re grappling with. From understanding the true meaning of community and the church to trying to really follow God.

My prayer: God help me to be a part and be the Church as you’ve intended. Help me know what it means to die to myself for the sake of community when I need to. Give me more courage to hold on to your desire and love for others and not my preferences or desires. Amen.

[image by cogdogblog | cc]