So one of my goals for 2012, frankly this is a rollover from 2011 really, is to stay focused on what I can control.
Category Archives: Religion
40 Days Down and Done!
Today’s chapter focuses on how you can develop a Purpose Statement for your life based on the five purposes shared in this book. The creation of such a statement cannot be done in a day but when done will serve as a reminder of the book and of course your five purposes and how you plan to fulfill them here on earth.
A purpose statement is similar to a mission statement that books like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People encourages you to write except with a kingdom focus. Rev. Warren shares that a purpose statement: summarizes God’s purposes for your life, points towards the direction of your life, defines success for you, clarifies your roles and expresses your shape. An Ojo moment for this chapter adds clarification on this idea:
A life purpose statement not only spells out what you intend to do with your time, life, and money, but also implies what you aren’t going to do. Proverbs says, “An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions [Proverbs 17:24 TEV].”
God at the Center
I admit that since graduating from college six years ago, I have worried more than I ever have. For me, it was achieving the big goal that my parents, and later myself, had for my life — getting my degree — that set me in a state of worry. Basically, it was like well dag I’ve done everything that I was supposed to do as instilled in me by my parents…now what?
Over time, I have been able to get at the heart of this worry and put it aside but every once in awhile worry comes back and I have to work to put it to the side again. Well in this chapter Rev. Warren talks about how keeping God at the center is key to minimizing worry:
When God’s at the center, you worship. When he’s not, you worry. Worry is the warning light that God has been shoved to the sideline. The moment you put him back at the center, you will have peace again. The Bible says, “A sense of God’s wholeness…will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life [Philippians 4:7 MSG].”
From Worry to Purpose
One thing that soothed my soul this morning while reading this chapter, an extension of the above, was the fact that Rev. Warren shared that there are many decisions that we can make about jobs, marriage or even school but that these are secondary issues with multiple possibilities and no matter what we choose they can all be in God’s will for our life. The key is to focus on the five purposes and everything else will fall into place. Its kinda like that Bible verse (Romans 8:28 – I looked it up ;)) that shares that it will all work together for our good so…don’t sweat the small stuff as they say. Focus on God’s purposes and God will make the rest happen!
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the LORDs purpose that prevails [Proverbs 19:21 NIV].”
Today’s Question to Consider is, “When will I take the time to write down my answers to life’s great questions? When will I put my purpose on paper?”
Well, I have decided to take 30 mins on Sundays to work on this statement. I recently added 30 mins to my schedule each week to work on my 5 Year Plan. Granted, I’m only on week two, today will be the second time on this new schedule, but I will say last week was nice as I took some time to look up programs or books that I needed to read. I also, in focusing in this area, was able to write down some things for my to-do list that connect with my five year plan. So I hope this will also occur with creating my purpose statement.
Finally, I just want to say thank you to anyone who has taken time out of their busy schedules to read these posts. I pray that you received information, encouragement, clarification or whatever else you were seeking while reading!
God Bless and Just Keep Swimming!
39 Days Down! Tomorrow to go!
Today’s chapter talks about balance and how to maintain your spiritual health. The simple breakdown given in this chapter is that, “A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian.” The chapter goes deeper into what this means and how it connects to your spiritual health.
Balance & Check-Ups – The Keys to Maintaining the Two GCs
The main message in this chapter is that to be a great Christian in your new world-class “Christianness” 🙂 is balancing the five purposes we have learned about in this book. How do you stay balanced? Well…:
…you can keep your life balanced and on track by joining a small group for accountability, by regularly evaluating your spiritual health, by recording your progress in a personal journal, and by passing on what you learn to others.
In June, I wrote a blog post “Doing It to Get Him not a him” and this post described one area where I was achieving spiritual growth. Well a friend of mine reached out to me wondering why I was questioning my faith and basically said I should be confident in my relationship with God. I was shocked by his comments, we had recently had some mildly heated religion/spirituality discussions, but I disagreed with him as I felt that he wasn’t understanding what I was trying to get out in my post.
After reading this chapter, I can see that what I was doing in my post was like a public journaling of my spiritual progress as well as a way to check my spiritual health and share with others how they can be encouraged in their situation(s). In reviewing how I was in my faith as well as how I am in my faith as well as where I want to be in my faith, I was assuring that I was balancing the five purposes of my life and avoiding spiritual stagnation. I will say that my friend did have a point about not questioning my faith, I don’t need to question it, but I felt like he was mistaking my reflections as questioning.
The best way to balance the five purposes in your life is to evaluate yourself periodically. God places a high value on the habit of self-evalutation. At least five times in Scripture we are told to test and examine our own spiritual health. The Bible says, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups….Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it [2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG].”
The above passage from the book shares that the Bible calls us to evaluate our spiritual health and our relationship with God. Just like you get your physical, your eyes and teeth checked we are to check our spiritual vital signs 🙂
I should note that when you do your spiritual check ups do not focus on just the good things:
Don’t just write down the pleasant things. As David did, record your doubts, fears, and struggles with God. Our greatest lessons come out of pain, and the Bible says God keeps a record of our tears. Whenever problems occur, remember that God uses them to fulfill all five purposes in your life: Problems forces you to focus on God, draw you closer to others in fellowship, build Christlike character, provide you with a ministry, and give you a testimony. Every problem is purpose-driven.
Looking at the bad and questionable is important too, as this prevents small problems and warnings from becoming large problems and also allows you to figure out a treatment for problems or illness that is present, whether spiritual or natural in nature. Looking at these things also prevents the reoccurrence of problems as you can track symptoms and manage them. That way, when you see the warning signs you know them and can start treatment early, because you previously tracked the good and the bad.
Finally, today’s Question to Consider is, “Which of the four activities will I begin in order to stay on track and balance God’s five purposes for my life.”
For me its easy, I need to work on my personal Bible Study. I go to the mid-week service at my church and I also participate in Sunday School but I don’t take enough personal time at home and I need to do this. I may have to start really slow picking one weekend in the month and increasing from there. I have found that when I try to start doing personal Bible Study, I start too quickly and with too much of an expectation for myself and this discourages me from continuing.
Enjoy your day! Tomorrow is the last day 😦
38 Days Down! Two Days to go!
I’m still in shock that I am almost done with this book!
Today’s topic is about how to be a World-Class Christian. This chapter continues the conversation around our fifth purpose which is missions. The focus today is on going outside of your circle and community to witness.
Well, I consider myself a tree-hugger, I love the environment and sharing awareness about how we can minimize our damage to planet. In recent years, environmentally conscious people and movements have discussed the idea of, “Think globally; act locally,” and while reading this chapter I was reminded of this phrase as I feel it relates to how to take our fifth purpose to the next level.
World-Class v. Worldly: What Type of Christian Are You?
This chapter discusses something that is not easy, one’s dedication and commitment to something they are a part of or choose to identify as. Many times when I share with people that I am a Vegan vegetarian they think its odd that I have chosen to refrain from eating any meat. Then when I share that Vegans do not eat animal bi-products like eggs or honey (okay I will have a piece of baklava every once in awhile but really thats the only time I eat honey) and that I don’t buy clothes made from animal products either they are really surprised.
I admit that I became a Vegan for health reasons so I wasn’t coming from an animal welfare perspective but I felt that if I was going to say that I was Vegan that I needed to be Vegan all the way as much as I can and I feel the same way with my Christianity. Here is what Rev. Warren shares about world-class v. worldly:
Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment. They are saved, but self-centered. They love to attend concerts and enrichment seminars, but you would never find them at a missions conference because they aren’t interested. Their prayers focus on their own needs, blessings, and happiness. It’s a “me-first” faith: How can God make my life more comfortable? They want to use God for their purposes instead of being used for his purposes. In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and made for a mission. They are eager to receive a personal assignment and excited about the privilege of being used by God…They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.
Now…I wish I could say that I have always been a world-class Christian but that is simply not the case. In fact, I’m sure that many Christians who are now world-class were worldly at some point. Yet there are others that have always been world-class too. But everything happens for a reason and I know that God had me go through the process I went through to move from worldly to world-class for a reason. Frankly, I appreciate my current “status” more because I have not always been this way. Because of this process, I also have a special place in my heart for assisting groups and organizations that help younger Christians be world-class sooner or stay that way if they are part of that group that have been world-class from the start. Though I have come to terms with my process, I do not want other young Christians to go through what I went through to get to where I am in Christ, unless its His will. So I do what little I can in my little corner of this earth to help young people hold on to and build on their fire for Christ.
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally and Globally
So earlier I mentioned the “Think Globally; Act Locally” quote that has been used in environmentalist movements. Well in this chapter Rev. Warren also talks about thinking globally and acting locally as well. Warren shares the significance around Jesus’ charge to the disciples, “You will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world [2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV].” For us today, Jerusalem is like our local area, Judea is like our country, Samaria is reaching out to people of other cultures (The Samaritans had a different culture from the disciples who were Israelites) and well the world is still the world 🙂 So similar to the environmental local movement, Rev. Warren reminds us that witnesses/sharing Jesus starts at home but he also shares that our sharing should be a mix of various extensions locally and globally.
Now the chapter shares various ways that you can do outreach, at your church or via organizations that help Christians do witnesses in other parts of the United States and the world. However, as you figure out, read pray, about where you should go and how you should and are able to act, Rev. Warren shared that there is something that we can do right where we are that can reach people all around the world — pray:
The first way to start thinking globally is to begin praying for specific countries. World-class Christians pray for the world. Get a globe or a map and pray for nations by name…Prayer is the most important tool for your mission in the world. People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers. Like an intercontinental missile, you can aim a prayer at a person’s heart whether you are ten feet or 10,000 miles away [Emphasis mine].
Today’s Q2C is, “What steps can I take to prepare to go on a short-term missions experience in the next year?”
Well everything happens for a reason, my church is actually moving in this area i.e., going international with our outreach not just staying local and just today at service, the pastors of the church we are working with in South Africa were in town. This reminded me that my church is in the process of planning a second trip to South African and instead of taking just a small team they are opening up the next trip to members. So I plan on making this trip my short-term missions trip within the next year. Some steps that I can take to make this happen is setting aside some money each month for the trip. I also know that I can ask family and friends to support my trip or support the ministry by asking for donations as well.
Two more days…
37 Days Down! 3 To Go!
Today’s chapter continues the discussion on sharing Christ with others with a focus on your life message and how to use that to share Christ.
What I liked about today’s chapter is that they actually giving you prompts that you can use to develop a personal testimony/develop a method for how you can share Jesus based on your personality and experiences. Rev. Warren shares that this is a chapter that we will need to take additional time to fully develop and though I won’t have that time now. I do plan on working (read scheduling) this into my schedule.
Additionally, this chapter talks about how we all have different passions but that all of our passions work for the betterment of this planet and for God’s plan. I think the reminder that we all have different passions and should therefore respect the various passions that those around us have is a nice reminder. I don’t know when but I remember sharing that I had a moment where I got a bit “stuck up” about how different churches do their services and praise and worship. Reading things that share our uniqueness and that our authenticity will look different from person to person helps me to get over myself when I have those “stuck up” moments.
What’s So Important About a Testimony?
You know in ole school traditional churches they would start a service or even have an entire service focused around a testimony. People would share their personal trials and tribulations, how they came to know Jesus, and how they were able to basically…”make a way out of no way.”
And, when I was in China in May/June, I visited a church for foreigners, yes only foreigners could go to the service I went to/they did have a service for Chinese citizens and yes its government rules, and they had a testimony included in the service.
Now I’ve been saved for over ten years almost fifteen but listening to the story of this young man who battled with drugs and alcohol, no it wasn’t weed and beer, inspired me. Not the down side of his story, though I’m sure that story was for someone in the room that day. The part that inspired me was the part where he shared how he ended up starting to come to church which led to him getting saved which led to him being active in the church and actively working on his relationship with God. Basically, he said that someone invited him to come to a young adult get together the church had and at first he didn’t want to come but the person would ask periodically and eventually he started to come. Then he shares how the people welcomed him and accepted him and started to include him in the activities of the group; very loving. Later in the story, he is sharing how he is getting help with his drug and alcohol problem and he realizes just how loving the group was because he began to see how others probably saw him — dirty and smelly from all of the drugs and alcohol — but you know what he said? He said that not once did anyone look down on him or make him feel bad no matter how bad things were going for him — that is what spoke to me! They invited him and that they accepted him just as he was and let time and relationship/friendship guide him to see his need for Jesus and his need to be active in a local church.
That my friends! Is the power of a testimony! The book shares on this power as well declaring that:
Actually, your personal testimony is more effective than a sermon, because unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a “satisfied customer,” so they give you more credibility…Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs. [Emphasis mine]
Well today’s Q2C is, “As I reflect on my personal story, who does God want me to share it with?”
I think God wants me to use social media and my corner of the internet to share Him. I’ve used my lack of having in person contact with people as an excuse before “well I can’t do this because well I don’t see people because of my work” Well I tweet and G+ and get LinkedIn with all kinds of people all the time all day…Why not use my blog or social media to share Him? Also, I used to place a lot of Bible verses on my gchat status as a way of motivation and sharing so I can move towards that again as well.
Since I talked about ole school church I leave you with “I’ve Got a Testimony”
Until next time,
36 Days Down! 4 Days to Go!
Today’s chapter is the start of the 5th Purpose – Mission.
This chapter definitely reflects one of the newest additions to my relationship with God.
The idea of sharing Jesus was so odd to me just a little over a year ago. It would make me uncomfortable or I would think, “oh I don’t want to offend anyone,” which I still don’t want to do. However, I started thinking about all the other experiences (Spelman, Study Abroad, Fulbright) that I have had that I share with enthusiasm and passion and with ease. Then one day I just said to myself, “if I can share these things why not Jesus?”
Over time I have learned that I don’t have to share Jesus the same way with everyone nor do I have to be like those soapbox preachers who stand on street corners in major cities sharing the “good news” by scaring the bejesus out of people (“Isn’t it ironic…don’t cha think?”). As I have shared a bit on other days of this journey, this is an area of my relationship that I am working on and its getting better but I still struggle. However, this chapter definitely helps me get additional understanding on this area.
Growing up as a kid, mission as Rev. Warren describes it in this chapter was not something that was talked about in my church. Sure we had a Missionaries Ministry and I remember digging in my little purse or pockets to find spare change to put in the offering plate on “their” Sunday (Cultural clarification-Some churches take different offerings on different weeks in addition to the normal general offering and tithe) but my understanding was that was the money the church used to help people physically not spiritually. Now the latter could have been going on but I don’t remember that being shared on a Sunday but I was a kid.
Honestly, I never really thought about mission as a sharing of my faith until much later and even then I didn’t have a positive view about it thanks to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who have knocked on my door over the years. Actually, I still remember when a Mormon came to my host mom’s house in the DR when I studied abroad there and she was sharing her faith in her developing Spanish. She was going so fast I couldn’t even tell her that I was a US Citizen and spoke English until after she finished. Anyway, as you can tell by earlier statements I have a new understanding about missions.
In the book, Rev. Warren starts the chapter by declaring, “You were made for a mission.” He continues:
God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission is your service to unbelievers. Fulfilling your mission in the world is God’s fifth purpose for your life.
Why not you? Based on what we have learned in this book, you have a unique purpose and you have a unique gift and by not fulfilling your purpose and sharing your unique gift someone on this planet is missing information they need. This also is true for sharing Jesus. Someone needs to hear about how you “came to Jesus” or came to a deeper relationship with God because that story will speak to them in a way that only your story can. Rev. Warren encourages us in this area when he shares that:
There are people on this planet whom only you will be able to reach, because of where you live and what God has made you to be. If just one person will be in heaven because of you, your life will have made a difference for eternity. Start looking around at your personal mission field and pray, “God, who have you put in my life for me to tell about Jesus?”
Additionally, Rev. Warren shares that:
The clock is ticking down on your life mission, so don’t delay another day…This does not mean you should quit your job to become a full-time evangelist. God wants you to share the Good News where you are. As a student, mother, preschool teacher, salesman, or manager or whatever you do… [Emphasis mine]
I mentioned earlier how I enthusiastically share with others various experiences that I have had. Because of this sharing, I know that there are people that have been and are going to Spelman College (including a family friend who starts in just a few weeks :D), have or will be going abroad while in college or have been on/are pursuing Fulbright grants because I shared my experiences with them and shared how these experiences changed my life. The changes these experiences have made in my life include, I know I would not be as successful as I am in graduate school without the support and foundation Spelman gave me and I know that I would not be fluent in Spanish if I had not studied abroad and I know that I would not be a PhD student if I had not gone on my Fulbright to do research and fall in love with researching.
With Jesus, the changes that I have made include being more patient, being more forgiving, not falling into the trap of addiction and more…Now, my new challenge is to share Jesus and these experiences in my own unique way while connecting with people. Lord willing, some day I will be able to say with confidence that, “I know people that have accepted Jesus because I shared my journey, the good and the bad, with them.”
It’s All Greek to Me…
If while reading today’s chapter or this post, all of this seems weird or unnecessary or any other adjectives that may be coming up for you…skip to the last section of the chapter called “One More for Jesus,” and then consider going back through the rest of the chapter.
Still not convinced? Check out this clip from Shindler’s List which touches on the importance of doing your part:
Today’s Question to Consider is, “What fears have kept me from fulfilling the mission God made me to accomplish? What keeps me from telling others the Good News?”
The fears that have kept me and keep me from sharing Jesus with others is fear of isolation, fear of being talked about/outcasted and fear of being a “Jesus freak.” I also had fear of the rejection around people saying no to Jesus (though learning more about witnessing and sharing Jesus I have learned that it is not up to us to “save” people it is only our job to share so this has helped in this area). The above fears also keep me from telling others the Good News. The other thing that keeps me from sharing is time – do I have time to have this whole conversation and deal with people’s “stuff” around God, religion or Christianity.
Enjoy your day!
35 Days Down! 5 Days to Go!
Today’s chapter talks about God and our weaknesses 😦
This chapter was a hard one for me as I do not like weaknesses or even admitting them. I feel like revealing this information is a disadvantage to maintaining the power in an interaction or a relationship. I’m a planning, organization loving, image conscious control freak so weakness is definitely a sore spot.
All that being said, this was a good chapter and a reminder that I have to let go of some of my ideas and tactics surrounding weakness. The chapter gives several examples of God using people’s weaknesses for His work and how these people dealt with and saw their weaknesses. What is also shared is just like every good has its corresponding evil, every strength has its corresponding weakness.
Why Weakness is Important
The chapter shares several things about why weakness is important and even needed. The one that struck me the most is in the following passage:
Our weaknesses also encourage fellowship between believers. While strength breeds an independent spirit (“I don’t need anyone else”), our limitations show how much we need each other. When we weave the weak strands of our lives together, a rope of strength is created. Vance Havner quipped, “Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic.” Most of all, our weaknesses increase our capacity for sympathy and ministry. We are far more likely to be compassionate and considerate of the weaknesses of others.” [Emphasis mine].
Impress v. Influence
Rev. Warren shares that:
At some point in your life you must decide whether you want to impress people or influence people. You can impress people from a distance, but you must get close to influence them, and when you do that, they will be able to see your flaws. That’s okay. The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection, but credibility.
There is a saying that shares, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care,” and I am reminded of this quote when reading the above passage. Sure fancy titles and accomplishments are nice but the taking on of advice or being influenced by others for me has happened with people that were honest, credible and let me see that they were concerned and cared for my personal, spiritual and educational development.
Just this week, I was talking with some friends at church about our pastor and the work that he does and not once did we share that, “oh we love our pastor and what he does because he is soooo perfect.” Actually he’s not perfect…really kinda crazy in a good way, lol 🙂 However, the things that we did share that we liked included that he was honest; that he was real; and that he shared his life as he teaches us. Frankly, I enjoy that my pastor is not perfect and is still working on some things — full disclosure, it makes me feel a lot better about me not having it all together — and I know that part of me is more susceptible to what he says and teaches because he shows his human side (not that pastor’s are not human but I hope you get what I am trying to say).
Well today’s Question to Consider is, “Am I limiting God’s power in my life by trying to hide my weaknesses? What do I need to be honest about in order to help others?”
Yes and I need to be honest that everything is not okay and that I’m struggling in some areas. I also think I need to be more open to showing how my weaknesses brought me closer to Christ and taught me other life lessons and not just share from the space of “now everything is okay,” on the other side of the lesions.
Until tomorrow, si Dios quiere,