How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life

What Michael Jordan can teach us about the soul

April 19th, 2013

If I choose to live by my own desires, my life is headed for ruin. Unfortunately, as a human being, this is the natural path I will take. If I am young and single, Especially if i am young and single, I won’t even think of another way.


But, when other life circumstances kick in, things change. If I am married, I begin to see that my way isn’t always the way it is. If we have children, this is even more evident. When I learn that I am not in charge of my life, it is a good start.


It isn’t a shock that research shows that “married with children” brings about greater physical and emotional health than any other social arrangement. Without living a deliberate path of self-denial and moving-toward-God transformation, from a human standpoint, this is the best chance we get. Yet, marriage and parenthood are not enough.


To live intentionally, focusing on renovation of all the parts of who I am, is the means to long-term health, and through Jesus, the means to eternal significance. We don’t have to wait to get married and have kids to begin this process. It can start any day at any time in our lives. The soul is at the center of the whole endeavor.


We join Jesus in transforming our hearts, minds, bodies, and social relations. The soul integrates all of these and makes our life, “our life.” For the first time, we can actually live life the way we are designed. It may be a stretch, but compare the soul to Michael Jordan.


The Bulls had Michael Jordan for a couple of years before they started winning championships. They didn’t become the world famous Chicago Bulls until Michael learned to involve the other four players and integrate them fully in the game. When all five were working together toward the common purpose of winning a “ring”, things clicked. Many times! Michael functioned like our soul, making sure everyone was involved and contributing in a healthy way. Yes, even Luc Longley!


Think about the similarity of soul work and team work.


The Bible Describes a Way of Life

April 18th, 2013

God is in charge. He is the source of transformation and he doesn’t hide this from us. The Bible is the way God gives us the plan to renovate our souls. This begins and ends with the fact that we don’t trust in our own wisdom; we trust in God’s.


Either the Bible is the Word of God for us or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then we are left with two choices to guide the transformation of our lives.


1. Our own understanding- We are the source of what will transform our lives.


2. Understanding not based on God’s Word- Learning based on what someone else thinks who doesn’t use a biblical worldview.


Here are the challenges of either of these viewpoints.


1. If I am the source of transformation in my life, then I know there is great risk, because I have been wrong before and I can’t imagine that I am not going to be wrong again.


2. No matter how brilliant the thinking may be, if it is not filtered through the Scripture, it can’t always be trusted. It may be an identical principle, as Jesus is the source of all truth. We can expect to find good, solid teaching in other religions and worldviews. Yet, how do we know if the teaching veers away from God’s Word if we don’t know the Bible?


Yes, God gives people a conscience to guide themselves whether they know the Bible or not. Yet, we can ignore our consciences so easily. Human history is filled with the disasters of people doing what they know is wrong, and at best convincing themselves that it is not wrong after all, and at worst, relishing the evil behavior. For those who trust God’s Word, neither is an option.


The transformation of the soul occurs through those who love the Word, read it in a careful, straightforward manner, and live it day to day. This is not usually a huge leap in life change, but rather a slow, quiet exposure to the Word of Life.


Read Ephesians, and then think about why reading the Bible is a key part of transformation.


The difference between spirit and soul

April 3rd, 2013

What is the difference between soul and spirit?

Dallas uses a car as an example. The spirit is the interface between the driver and the car. The steering wheel, door locks, GPS and such.  Things we consciously operate. The soul is the computer system behind it all. The soul regulates and organizes, the spirit takes action on the decisions. In all of this, hopefully it is God who is in charge of the driver!

As the soul is the organizer, the soul needs to function well in order for the rest of the parts of who I am to work well. When I am using my whole self in any endeavor of life, a healthy soul is absolutely essential. What are these areas?

Renovation of the Heart lists these examples:

Creativity, sleep, sex, parenting, relationships, health and meaningful work.

In our time, many of our most “brilliant” thinkers have dismissed the concept of the soul and its importance in integrating our lives in healthy ways. So, how’s it going?

Look at each of the aspects of human life and you tell me. One example is sleep. According to Archibald Hart, in The Anxiety Cure, half of all adult Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. Without a good night’s sleep, everything else is affected.

Or take sex. Is it is a private, intimate bonding experience for husbands and wives where “two become one,” on occasion bringing about new life for the next generation? Is that the purpose of sexual relations as designed by God? If so, how are we doing?

Marriage, parenting, work, friendships, love of neighbor—- how are we doing???

If the scholars who say we are simply “particles and progress” are correct, then what is their answer? Even if you deny the soul, you still have to get up in the morning and live life. I say, good luck scientific materialists (those who say the physical is all there is), but I am going with the evidence there is more to it than this.

Meaning and purpose are essential ingredients of a healthy life. Scientific materialism has no delivery system for this. In fact, it is more accurate to say that soul ruin is just around the corner for those stuck on the “life is only about me” motif.

Fortunately, we are not buying into the despair of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and skepticism that has been such a staple of the “intelligentsia” for the last 100 years. We need to get to the soul of the matter. More and more people are willing to look.

If the “real world” is actually the unseen spiritual world, then what does “get real” actually mean?


What does the “soul” do?

April 2nd, 2013

When we think of soul, there are three main ways to think of it.

First, is a vague characteristic we have or don’t have.

“He’s got soul.”

Second, is an immaterial entity that is contained within us.

“I love you down to my very soul.”

Third, is the belief the soul doesn’t exist at all. We are completely physical, and any other sense of who we are comes from electrical impulses in our brain circuitry and chemical reactions.

“It’s just how we are wired.”

Dallas offers a fourth view. Soul is beyond our body. It contains the body, but it is much bigger than that. Your soul is the organizing force that holds together heart, the mind’s thoughts and feelings, the body, and our relationships. The soul is the CEO of who we are.

According to Dallas, our soul is given to us by God at conception and through it creates and organizes our DNA and all the life that follows.

This may all seem strange, but if our souls are real and organizing our lives together, then we are missing out on some key knowledge of our very existence, as this is not a standard course of study in high school, university, or even churches nowadays. Let’s consider the soul…

Another way the soul has been explained is, “The soul is like the captain of a ship.” What does this look like to you?

What is the soul?

March 28th, 2013

You are not a collection of specific isolated ingredients. You are a being united and enmeshed into one unique human. Your soul is the glue that holds your heart, mind, body, and social life together. Your soul coordinates your life and manages the interaction of the other parts of who you are.

I live my life through my soul. I am hardly conscious of its work. The soul is not physical, but it is real. It is hard to understand the awesome nature of my soul, and of the five parts of who I am, it is the most involved. The soul responds to all aspects of my life.

God desires to transform my soul. It is not holy and pure on its own, but needs renovating like all the other parts of who I am. If I want to be like Jesus, I need to be changed from the very depths of who I am.

Let’s look at the vision to transform my soul. This is the most challenging aspect of who I am to explain, but it is essential we understand. We have to have the “big picture” view of everything else.

What has been your understanding of “soul”?

Jesus makes paying it forward a reality

March 14th, 2013

Pay it forward.


This is another important tool for the transformation of social life. Remember the movie, Pay it Forward? This film brings the concept out in a powerful way. Starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey, and Jesus (well actually James Caviezel, who later played, “Jesus” in The Passion of the Christ and, therefore, I keep seeing him as Jesus), shows what might happen if you reach out for the sake of another.


Do something “big” for someone else, and then tell them they have to do something “big” for three other people who do it for three other people, and so on. In other words, you can’t return the good deed; you have to pay it forward. Movie critics didn’t buy it. Here is what Roger Ebert had to say.


That’s the theory behind “Pay It Forward,” a movie that might have been more entertaining if it didn’t believe it. It’s a seductive theory, but in the real world, altruism is less powerful than selfishness, greed, nepotism, xenophobia, tribalism and paranoia. If you doubt me, take another look at the front pages.


I have two responses for Mr. Ebert.

1. Roger, have you ever tried it?

2. Jesus would certainly beg to differ.


It’s not that willing the good of your neighbor and taking action on it, “loving thy neighbor,” can’t be done- it’s we don’t try it enough. We don’t realize where the chain of good begins. Jesus tells us.


I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. (John 15:10-12)


The love Jesus experiences in the Trinity, is given to me, and I pay it forward to someone else, who in turn will be influenced by my action, and will have the opportunity to pay it forward.


Apologies to Roger Ebert, but this theory works in the real world.


The real world is where God rules, God’s Kingdom. If all the parties involved are being changed by the Holy Spirit and living transformed lives, then pay it forward is as natural as selfishness is in a world that doesn’t recognize the transforming power of God.


As we reach out in love to others, and they are under the same power of the Holy Spirit, they will bless us, as well as bless others. Can you imagine what it will be like if we all live in communities where people are transformed disciples of the living God, Jesus? Pay it forward will be no big deal. We can live in such a community.


It starts with you.


When did you do something loving for someone and saw them pay it forward. How did that make you feel?

How to really love

March 12th, 2013

Let genuine love rule.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)  
Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

If I am following the model of Jesus, I am not going to put on a false act when I am with you and have another attitude behind your back.
If someone is a challenge to you, it gives you a chance to expand your “love character.” You stretch your potency when you desire to bless someone who doesn’t necessarily wish to bless you back. When I am being transformed, I love you like Jesus loves you. I desire you to be blessed and I act upon this. I honor you, meaning I put real value on your well being.

Genuine love builds up rather than tears down. This means I try to catch you at your best. I do not make any attempts to put you on the defensive where you are less likely to respond graciously. There is a phrase used that sums these actions up: “Anxiety-producing behavior.”

Anxiety-producing behavior occurs when I try to make people anxious on purpose to somehow advance my own agenda or gain more attention on my “rightness.”  It may be subtle or even unconscious, but it is there. I may exaggerate the negative. The boy who cried, “Wolf,” and Chicken Little, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” are classic cases of this.

Genuine love takes the time to know what is necessary to put people at ease, even when dealing with conflict and disagreement.

“Love is seeking the good of another.” What do you think Dallas means by this?

Halloween’s Over- no more masks

March 8th, 2013

Another means to transform social life is to lose the mask. We present ourselves as authentically as possible.

Attack and withdrawal result in our setting up huge walls against being vulnerable. We are likely to put on “masks” to hide who we are both because we don’t like who we are or we don’t want others to shine any light on our darker side. Or we wear masks in order to look better and achieve recognition and reward for being someone we are not. This is especially tempting in a church community. We have one mask for our Christian friends and one mask for day-to-day life.

Another mask we may choose to wear is to be following Jesus, but hiding our love for him so we don’t appear too sold out to our friends. This seems strange, but Christians may show signs of real vulnerability and growth in faith around their Christian community, but try to look like someone else at work or at school.

For a follower of Jesus all masks must go. This doesn’t mean that our lives become therapy sessions. It’s not about “brutal honesty” and such. Not about baring the effects of my childhood to the guy sitting next to me at McDonald’s. This does mean we need to be real with people around us. Our public and private lives begin to match. We give up using deceit, manipulation and defensiveness in our relationships. Our identity comes from God and he makes it possible for us to face the world unmasked as our best, true selves.

What mask is ready to come off of you now?

even the ponies can tell the difference

March 1st, 2013

Being transformed in our own lives, our families are influenced. As our families are transform, we influence the community around us. We see times in Christian history when transformation becomes so powerful that whole communities change.

Consider the Welsh Revival. In 1904 there was an intentional spiritual reawakening that swept through Wales.  The country itself was changed. Taverns were emptied. There were days when the courtrooms were empty. Even animals were affected.

There is this great story about the small ponies the miners used to move their coal cars underground. These ponies started messing up on the job. It seems they were so used to the curses of their masters, that when the miners stop swearing, the ponies didn’t understand the commands and didn’t know how to follow!

The ideal in our circle of sufficiency is we join God in Trinitarian love and through our relationship with him, we in turn love others in our circle. They join God as well, and love us back. Lives are enriched as a result. Together, we share the love outside the circle and we impact the wider community.

We are not so naive as to expect everyone will give love after receiving it. This includes those in our circle of influence, as well as out. Yet, we are energized to love as Christ loves knowing that whether it is returned or not it expands us. To be in God’s will is a blessed place.

The first means I use to transform my social life is to “put on Christ.” My Heavenly Father gives me my identity through Jesus.
Perhaps you are familiar with identity theft. This is where someone steals your credit card numbers and/or social security number and begins to make purchases under your name. Sometimes making large transactions as if they were you! There are safeguards to prevent this crime; to protect my identity.

Yet, in the big picture, my true identity is that I am the beloved son or daughter of the loving Father. He’s my dad! I am secure. This makes it possible to live a life of self-denial, or self-forgetfulness if you will, and live a life of service toward others. This makes it possible to forgive others and bless rather than curse. This is a new life.
    Col. 3:10 (NLT)  

In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.

What would it be like for people to say of you, “You are like a new person!”

why marry?

February 26th, 2013

The central place for social transformation to have impact is in families. This is the fertile foundation for all other relationships both for good and evil. Family can be the most common place for attack and withdrawal, but it can also be a place where we learn mutual submission for the sake of the other. Where we can actually become Christlike in a way that is matchless. Renovation of the heart is a long view process that begins and continues with those closest to us.

Marriage is the place where we are designed to be at our most intimate and our most vulnerable. Husbands and wives are literally created to complement (making complete) each other, not just compliment each other. God has designed male and female to be complementary in in the essence of who we are. This is why I have followed the biblical model of marriage from day one with our children. I encouraged them to know that some day they will join someone in holy matrimony and their lives will be enhanced for all their days on earth. I know you may want to gag, but this is so right.
 Genesis 2:18 (NLT)
And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.”

The word for “companion” is often translated “helper” in other versions of the Bible. Neither of these words does complete justice to the meaning of the original language. The Hebrew word can be translated, “one who sees things from a different perspective.” Husbands and wives are created to see things differently!  Marriage becomes a place where giving of ourselves for the sake of the other is best practiced by God’s design. And in marriage, husband and wife are constantly tested.

When they have children, parents then become the model for renovation, or attack and withdrawal. The very best and the very worst models of what it means to live in community start right here. You can’t be transformed in your relationships outside of your family without the foundation within.

Here is the challenge. A family is made up of individuals who are naturally moving toward self-worship. Society caters to this narcissistic focus of “what’s in it for me?” When relationships are fractured in the family, so much is at stake. Alienation and contempt may become common place. Divorce may seem the only way out for marriages. Parents and children may look upon each other as enemies. There is another way.

You can invite the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to join with you. You can begin to live in God’s ways and declare a “no attack and no withdraw” zone as it relates to you. No matter what your family relationships are, you can be the new generation who will birth a new community of love in years to come.

What is the relationship between marriage and discipleship?

How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life