The Weeklong Sermon: Living the Word

As we concluded our January focus on consuming God’s Word, I wanted to highlight the importance of living the Word. James 1:22-25 emphasizes this:

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Pay attention to the way James phrases his instruction. “be doers of the word…” He could have instructed us to “do the word” or “keep the word”. Instead, he says be a doer. He wants us to think beyond one-off actions. He wants us to be people who are characterized by the doing of God’s Word (vs. only hearing). I think this is the difference between application and contemplation.

When most people think about living the Word of God, they go straight to application: putting the text to use. How do I apply this to my life? Maybe it’s a principle or a command that we apply to specific attitudes, behaviors, or situations. Sometimes when we’re driven by only application, our reading of the Bible can be a kind of “search and apply” mission. While application can be a part of living the Word, I believe that contemplation is much broader. It’s the difference between doing the word and being a doer of the word.

Application has to do with specific actions or behaviors. Contemplation is about absorbing what God is speaking into the pattern of our lives, to let it actually shape our identity. Contemplation considers how the Word can affect my broader outlook on and approach to life. While application is how I use something, contemplation is how I become something different.

I think that’s why James uses the metaphor of a man who looks in the mirror and forgets what he looks like. The man doesn’t just forget what he must do, but he forgets something more fundamental to himself. God intends to address and transform our very self-concept, identity, thought processes, stories by His Word. And he does it day by day through small measures of response and obedience.

When I take up the identity of a contemplative whose obedience is motivated and favored by Christ’s obedience on my behalf, I begin to experience the Word as it was intended to be – not just a manual for life but a mirror and transforming influence on my soul.

What have your experiences with contemplation been? What questions rise up as you think about the difference between application and contemplation? Leave a comment below.

My 5 Top Reads of 2017

Happy New Year!

This past year I made the goal of reading 36 books (I only got to 35, and that with binge reading the week between Christmas and New Year’s!) I stepped it down from 2016’s 60-book count because I had a hard time recalling many of the books that I had read. I didn’t want to just push through a booklist for a numerical goal and not remember the journey. If you read my list from last year, you know that I try to read broadly. I look for books that catch my curiosity, and no genre is off-limits (though my favorites are children’s/young adult books).

Here’s the list of my 5 favorites of 2017. Note: these are not books that were published in 2017, but books that I happened to have read this past year. I’ve also tried to give a little plug as to why I enjoyed it.  Continue reading

Thanksgiving Conversations

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family. As you prepare to travel, cook, host, visit, etc. I hope that your weekend will be filled with more than just football on TV and polite dinner conversation (or hostile conversations). In an age where technology is causing us to lose the ability to engage meaningfully, I wonder if we can some time – whether at the dinner table or otherwise – to share a bit more deeply, to get a glimpse into one another’s hearts?

If that sounds too abstract for you, let me give you an idea. I have really enjoyed Ken Sande’s weekly blog, RW360 (Relational Wisdom). He always has very practical and relatable discussions about living with more empathy and wisdom in our relationships. I found his Thanksgiving encouragement to be really encouraging.

He suggests 10 Ways to Connect More Deeply at Thanksgiving. Here’s 10 conversation starters he gives.

Tell a story about a person God placed in your life …

  1. Who loved you in a way you’ll never forget.
  2. Who showed you amazing kindness or forgiveness.
  3. Who kept you from making a big mistake.
  4. Who changed the course of your life.
  5. Who reassured you when you were afraid.
  6. Who taught you an important lesson by example.
  7. Who has been especially loyal to you or others.
  8. Who is a remarkably good listener.
  9. Who inspired you by standing up for what is right.
  10. Who gave you courage to do something difficult.

I’m going to print out his PDF, and have our friends pick a number from 1-10 to answer. We’ll spend a little time before dinner sharing our answers, sing “God is so Good” (my dad’s favorite), and then eat.

How will you engage meaningfully this Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and share an idea below!

Happy Thanksgiving!