December 14, 2009

Living Like Jesus

A few weeks ago I popped into the local Family Christian Store looking for a songbook for Christmas. I normally try to stay away from bookstores altogether because if I don't, I buy books and put them on the shelf behind me in my office. That is where the plan to read books are. So, I was taking a risk. To help me not buy anything, I took my girls along.

Unfortunately, Family Christian did not have the book I was looking for. I was ready to be in and out to control the temptation. However, Hannah got stuck in the kids section. Go figure. To kill a little time I looked at the church resource section. Luckily there was nothing there that I needed. From there I went to the Christian Living section, or I think that is what it is called. Its the good section between stuck in between the fiction and the charismatic section, I think. Its aisle 3. That is not the point, though.

While in the Christian Living section, a book A Year Living Like Jesus caught my attention. Ed Dobson was a minister at a large church in Grand Rapids. I have never interacted with any of his books, theology, writings, and such. I normally would skip right over him and look for one of the authors that my mind/theology resonates with. Yet, the title of the book, really gripped my attention. I thumbed through the book for a moment, looked at the back cover, and then put it back. Luckily my girls were ready to leave.

Later that week, I did a little internet looking for the book and for Ed Dobson. That's how much the title and idea caught my attention. It fits in so well with where I am at in my life. I'm not feeling down. I'm not feeling un-spiritual. I'm feeling like I'm in the middle of the road--not doing horribly, but not living epic (to use a word from my Merge students). I've been mulling and thinking about where I'm at for a few months now. I've been wondering how I change and add discipline to my life so I can move from the middle of the metaphorical road.

Last week I had lunch with a friend to talk about some other church stuff. In the process of that conversation, we talked about Dobson's book, and the book that he read that pushed him to live like Jesus for a year--A.J Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically, which my friend had just gotten as a birthday present. Needless to say, my consumer mentality was calling me to buy the book. I NEEDED it.

Last night I gave in and bought the book. I'm already half done with it. I couldn't put it down. I hope to finish it in the next two days or so. I plan to buy it for some close friends for Christmas.

Please note, its not about the book. The book is good. Its the concept that is shared in the book. The idea of allowing Jesus to shape my life in a day to day manner should not really be new to me--should not be as earth shattering as it is. But, it is what it is. There are especially two quotes within the book that feed my passion for this idea of living the life of Jesus--quotes from other people that Dobson shares. And, I would tell them to you if I had the book here beside me. The book is in the car so I would actually do the work I needed to do today rather than finish the book! And, as most of you know, I stink at memorization. You'll simply have to wait for the quotes.

Now to the reason I wanted to post this--these are the things I'm thinking about doing next year. They are not as extreme as what Dobson did (like not cutting his beard and eating kosher), but they are extreme for me.

  • Read/Listen to Gospels once a week
  • Read/Listen to NT once a month
  • Continue my study of the Pentateuch and look into the Talmud
  • Make prayer more than what it is right now in my life
  • Better eating habits
  • Get back to weekly fasting
  • No soda
  • Commit to and have a weekly/daily exercise routine
  • Observe Sabbath
  • Live out the Sermon on the Mount (this includes memorizing it)
I'm not telling you these things to gloat and say, "look at what I'm going to do!" Rather, I'm asking those of you that read this to pray about these things, about my crazy decision to do them Pray that I choose to do the right things, not for me, but so that I can reshape my life to be like Jesus. Right now the list looks daunting. It makes me ashamed that I'm not doing some of these things in my life now. It is what my middle of the road soul longs for.

Thank you for praying for me and for this.

December 9, 2009


The other day Frank, my senior minister, commented that he has not been blogging much lately. His specific comment was something to the effect of, "I'm blogging like Wally." While not being offended by his comment, it motivated me to blog more. . . or at least to try and blog more. We'll see how it goes.

I started a post a few weeks ago concerning Tiger Woods while messing with ommwriter for mac (which is a cool program for removing distractions while writing). I was rather frustrated with how much the media was hounding him about his little encounter with the fire hydrant and the tree. I didn't have time to finish my thoughts on that blog when I started it, so it ended up sitting on my desktop for a few days before I tossed it. At that point, i was more messing with the software than really collecting and writing my thoughts.

A couple days later the news broke about his personal downfalls. While I was not shocked with the news, I was surprised by the media's response. A famous man wrecks his car a few days earlier and tries to be quiet about what and why happened and everyone hounds him to speak up and share the story. I remember the headlines, "Tiger cancels his appointment with the state troopers again!" The media was relentless. Then, it comes out that he has been unfaithful to his wife and it seems to be second or third page news. One would think that his unfaithfulness would be more important or dramatic than than driving his fancy SUV into a tree. (Granted, his wife did extricate him from said SUV with a golf club. That to me is funny and ironic.) But it wasn't. By the time the truth came out, it seemed to me that the media and everyone who thrives on news had moved on to the new big thing.

What is it about our society that we chase after all the dirt and all the secrets. Why is it that we pry and poke and dig until we get the "truth" and in my opinion exacerbate the situation? I am certainly guilty of this. Every morning after I get ready for the day, I find myself perusing three or four websites to see what happened in the world the day before. And, unfortunately, I continue to check back to see if anything else has happened since the last time I looked. That, in turn, gets carried into other conversations with a simple, "hey, did you see this story or that story?"

We are a reality TV society. We thrive on peeping into the lives of those around us, those down the street, and those on the other side of the world. We want to see and feel their excitement, shock, and pain. We are so infatuated with the lives of others.

The question my mind then asks is why? Why are we so infatuated? Why are we so intrigued by Tiger Woods or our latest classmate from high school we found on facebook? Is it so we can compare ourselves to them and say things like, "I've turned out better than them!" Are we looking everywhere we can for people who are more messed up to feel good about ourselves? Or, is the bigger issue the fact that we don't want to think about ourselves so we bury ourselves in looking at others to forget? Either way, I think the big issue is that we are not happy with ourselves.

Jesus has something to say about that in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7). Why do you look at the sawdust in the lives of others when you walk around with planks in your own eyes? If I'm going to look at the world and "judge" or whatever it is I will do with the world, I first need to check myself and make sure I am ok. I think the second greatest commandment hits on this too, "Love your neighbor as yourself." While it calls us to loe our neighbor, it also calls to love ourselves. That is a challenging thing to do.

Its hard to love ourselves. We know everything about ourselves. We don't need the media to dig into our closets to reveal our skeletons to ourselves. We live there in the closet, continually replaying the past and wondering why we were so messed up. We can't let go and move on, even though we should.

In my journeying through Leviticus the last few months, I have been gripped by the way that the Israelites were challenged to deal with sin. Well. It goes a bit farther than that. They were expected to not intentionally sin. If you intentionally sinned, you were either booted from the community or stoned. If you unintentionally sinned, when you realized it, you were to take an offering to the tabernacle to make yourself right in order to keep you and the community in the right with God.

What if we were to take the lead from this and actually deal with our skeletons? What if we were able to deal with our past so we could live in the now, looking ahead rather than struggling with what is behind us? How do we do that? How do we somehow instill in ourselves the want to do that? How do we overcome the fear of saying, "this is me"?

Maybe we simply need the media to focus on us and hound us, dig at our pasts until they find the truth. Then we would have to deal with it, just as Mr. Woods is right now. I doubt my life is that interesting. . .

Lord, help us to be a people who chase after your righteousness and holiness. Help us to be a people who learn to love ourselves because you show us love and grace. May we be a people who learn to revel in that love and grace and show it to others, so they can know how great you are. Move us to deal with the the planks in our own eyes so we can help others with their own sight.