Top 10 Steps To Being The Best You Now!

1. After I finish my prayer and study when I begin writing I create a playlist that covers the themes and pop culture references I make. I quite like this particular playlist, there’s some really great tunes on it. I’m particularly fond of the two Derek Webb songs (New Law and Spirit vs The Kick Drum), the Bob Dylan tune (Lay Down Your Weary Tune). But, there’s one tune, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” by The Flaming Lips that teases out the sin-sickness in our hearts in a funny sort-of-way.

3. If you’re interested in learning more about “Law and Gospel” here is a list of books that I think are fantastic and will help you breathe a little easier:

4. It is easy to think of faith as a work we do to curry favor with God. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “All you have to do is have faith and God will…” or, more menancingly (and sadly I’ve actually heard this), “God didn’t do that because you didn’t have enough faith…” There’s that tricky Mr. Law coming and redefining what “faith” means. Did you notice the cause and effect clauses in those statements: “If I have X {faith} then Y {God will heal/bless/endorse my campaign}.” But, that’s not what faith is:

Schaeffer Faith Quote

This picture was originally shared by Crossway Publishing and I saw it serendipitously after church while I was scrolling through my FaceBook feed.

5. I read this poem in the March 2015 issue of Poetry magazine, and it’s stayed with me since.

Bible Study
TONY HOAGLAND

Who would have imagined that I would have to go
a million miles away from the place where I was born
to find people who would love me?
And that I would go that distance and that I would find those people?

In the dream JoAnne was showing me how much arm to amputate
if your hand gets trapped in the gears of the machine;
if you acted fast, she said, you could save everything above the wrist.
You want to keep a really sharp blade close by, she said.

Now I raised that hand to scratch one of those nasty little
scabs on the back of my head, and we sit outside and watch
the sun go down, inflamed as an appendicitis
over western Illinois – which then subsides and cools into a smooth gray sea.

Who knows, this might be the last good night of summer.
My broken nose is forming an idea of what’s for supper.
Hard to believe that death is just around the corner.
What kind of idiot would thnk he even ahd a destiny?

I was on the road for so long by myself,
I took to reading motel Bibles just for company.
Lying on the chintz bedspread before going to sleep,
still feeling the motion of the car inside my body,
I thought some wrongness in my self had made me that alone.

And God said, You are worth more to me
than one hundred sparrows.
And when I read that, I wept.
And God said, Whom have I blessed more than I have blessed you?

And I looked at the mini bar
and the bad abstract hotel art on the wall
and the dark TV set watching like a deacon.

And God said, Survive. And carry my perfume among the perishing.

[Source: Poetry (March 2015).]

6. So often I am tempted to avoid the bad things that I’ve done and that I do. I actively avoid my failures. I present the best me availble to myself, to the world at large, and – worst of all – to God. I hide the ugly and unpleasent parts of me. But St. Augustine has this other wonderful Latin phrase, “Felix Culpa,” which means: “O Happy Fault.” It comes from a Catholic mass that when translated reads: “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer.”

Stephen Colbert, to honor his new Late Show starting tomorrow, in a recent and heartbreaking interview with Joel Lovell at GQ describes “Felix Culpa” this way:

“Our first night professionally onstage,” he [Stephen Colbert] said, the longtime Second City director Jeff Michalski told them that the most important lesson he could pass on to them was this: “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.” (You’re welcome, Dune nerds.) – The Late, Great Stephen Colbert by Joel Lovell; GQ Magazine

7. There is a good-hearted, well intentioned tendency to preach behavior modification methods (Law) to ourselves in the hope that we’ll become more Sanctified (the process of becmoing more Christ-like) and better behaved people. Which, again, is counter-intuitive.

Over the past year or so I’ve been trying to articulate what the role of Justification (our standing with God) and the grace of the cross are in the Sanctification process. I’ve not been successful then I came upon this quote by Lutheran theologian, Gerhard Forde, in my research for this past week’s sermon that articulates it, in my opinion, perfectly:

Santification is the art of getting used to our justification.

8. Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”

rembrandt-return-of-the-prodigal-son1

9. I read this on Twitter the other day, I forget who tweeted it:

Build a man a fire and he’s warm for the night, set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life.

There’s this idea that if we preach too much grace than it’ll become lisence for sin. So we preach to ourselves behavior modification (seven steps to blah blah blah) because if you give a man a fish – grace – he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish – law – he’ll eat forever. All Law. We begin to trust the Law to do what it is not capable of doing. The Law is not capable of producing what it instructs, only grace can… BUT! BUT! IF YOU PREACH TOO MUCH GOSPEL PEOPLE WILL KEEP ACCEPTING HANDOUTS!

Paul heard that too, his response, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6.1-2)” and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2.20)

We wrongly assume Jesus is our Co-Pilot and that we’re still the one’s doing the living. But us Christians have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live but he lives in us! As we walk, by faith, with the Spirit we won’t gratify the desires of our flesh.

Walking by the Spirit is a much different process than sin management; one looks like Beholding the Lamb of God who “takes away the sins of the world! and the other looks suspiciously like navel gazing.

10. At the conclussion of the sermon we were comissioned to “love one another” by way of Les Misérables to reinforce that message:

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Top 10 Steps To Being The Best You Now!