Posts tagged Relationship with God
Why is My Devotional Life so... Meh?



“The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.”
― A.W. Tozer
In the Army we had a saying: "Don't make an MOS out of it". MOS stands for "Military Occupancy Status" which was basically a fancy way of saying "job". When you enlisted in the Army you enlisted for a particular MOS, be it infantry, field artillery, finance, or engineer (among many other options). Once you finished basic training you went off to your particular MOS school where you would learn exactly how to do your particular job. Once done, you would then be sent to a unit as a fully trained soldier specializing in your MOS.

However, regardless of what your MOS was there always came a day in Army life when you had to go do some other simple task like helping someone on base move house, or disposing of trash that had piled on for too long. It was in these scenarios where certain soldiers would tackle the task in such a way that they would over complicate that which was meant to be simple. And thus was born the "Don't make an MOS out of it" phrase. It simply meant, "stop making things so complicated. Just take the trash to the bin. Its that simple dude".

Now of course, this isn't just an Army problem. I'm always amazed at our human inclination to over complicate just about everything. Years ago I locked my keys in my car and had a group of friends come and try and help me. Three of the guys literally spent the first 5-8 minutes engaged in formulating and debating a plan that none of them could agree on. Suddenly, the fourth guy who had been standing back the whole time sorting out some tools stood up and said, "Yall' got too many theories. That's your problem." And in less than 30 seconds, without any of their input or assistance, he had pried the door open with a crow bar and used a oddly bent clothes hangar to fish the keys out of the car. That simple.

But this knack for the over complicated also bleeds into our spiritual lives. When it comes to our devotional life we are always looking for some new thing that will help us connect with God. Perhaps a new devotional, a new method, a new DVD, a new book, a new app, or a new system. But, as is often the case, 2 weeks later we are back to having no devotional life at all. And so we go back to searching for the magic pill that will make it stick And we never find it.

The prime reason is there is no magic pill, no secret formula, and no complex system. Its really quite simple. Set time aside for God. That's it. Nothing else to it.

So if its so simple why don't we do it? I think the answers to that can be many, but in my experience its often because simple as it may be, setting time aside for God means I have to miss out on something else whether its extra sleep, news-feed surfing, or more Netflix. And so I have concluded that the problem isn't that a devotional life is complicated but that I am often not willing to pay the price of time with God. And here is the honest truth: Time with God will cost you something. Prayer will cost you something. Bible study will cost you something. Memorizing and meditating on scripture will cost you something. And as you make your relationship with God more central in your life he begins to occupy more and more of your time, thought, and attention (kind of like any other relationship). And some of us are just not willing to go down that path. We'd rather the extra sleep, the extra episode, or the extra YouTube video. So we settle for a "blah" devotional life. And its tragic.

So how do we break out of this horrendously selfish cycle? Here are some steps that may prove a blessing:

Admit it to God. Seriously, have a conversation with him in which you openly admit that Brooklyn Nine Nine is way more interesting to you than Bible Study or prayer. Don't hold back. He can handle it.

Ask God to replace your desires. If you are going to break out of this cycle, you are going to need divine aid. So ask God for a new conversion experience and that he will fill you with a burning passion for him above all else.

Now go do it. Seriously, don't wait until you "feel" the passion. Just go and live up to your own prayer request. Make time for God. Spend that time with him. Talk to him. Read his words. Enjoy being in his presence. It really is that simple.

Note: This article was originally published at www.livingstonsda.church/livo-blog
How the Church Failed Mo


Mo is a pretty cool dude. I don't say super cool because, after all, he is my brother and so pretty cool will have to do. (I'm sure such a "theorem" would be reciprocated by a hearty "my sentiments exactly" on his part.) Anyhow, the point is he's pretty cool.

Now Candice, my special lady, is awesome. This awesome lady of mine was clever enough to plot a secret reunion between my pretty cool brother and my pretty cool self. She said it was a surprise to celebrate my recent liberation from the tyranny of biblical languages (I just recently finished my last ancient Greek class), but I'm sure having my mother in town for a visit had more to do with it. 

Now onto my main point. Mo and I were raised Seventh-day Adventists all of our life. At the age of 17 I decided to follow Jesus. Mo went a different direction and has stuck to it ever since. For many years I have wondered why he walked away from the faith of his youth. Being highly intelligent, scientific, and analytical would have been a challenge for him especially when my father rejected his scientific explanation of where the wind came from and instead insisted, very dogmatically of course, that God had a room in heaven with wind trapped inside. Whenever he wanted the wind to blow he would open the door. Whenever he wanted it to not blow he would shut it. Though I have no proof of this, I wonder if Mo's brilliant mind wrestled with such an irrational concept thus planting the seed for a growing discontent with Christianity. 

Regardless of what reason (or perhaps reasons) led Mo out of the church one thing is certain: his experience was, to be quite generous, bitter. You see, Mo and I share a craving for authenticity that we acquired from our culture. We want answers, not cliches. We want truth, not opinion. We want a faith that is logical and rational - free from fanaticism, phobias, and unreasonable superstitions. We want Bible not dogma and traditions. We want relationship not religion. And most of all, we want honest and open dialogue not absurd, irrelevant, and simpleminded solutions. Authenticity. That is what we crave. And that is what the church failed to give.

You see, Mo grew up in a church culture that told him it was bad to go to the movie theater even though we could go to the elders house and watch mindless killing and gore. It was OK, was the message, so long as it is in a house. But don't go to the theater! Your angel wont follow you in there and if you die there you will go to hell. Irrational anyone? Mo grew up in a church that told his lady friends it was bad to wear pants to church, or anything too revealing for that matter, even though every Saturday night half of the members were glued to the infamous Sabado Gigante game-show with half naked women parading their curves on the TV screen for all the choir singers, elders, and deacons to enjoy. Hypocritical anyone? Mo grew up in a church where the leaders were only concerned with whether or not you were a good church member. Do you cry yourself to sleep at night because you are lonely and depressed? We don't care. Just make sure you don't let your hair grow too long and you have a tie on when you show up on Sabbath. Absurd anyone? Yes, Mo grew up in a church where the leaders spoke to you when you were in trouble and ignored you the rest of the time. A church that wanted to erase him from membership because he joined the Army even though not a single one of those involved in this proposition had ever sent him a letter of encouragement or called him to offer a prayer. A church where lack of biblical knowledge prompted an "Ellen White said" that was supposed to settle the issue once and for all. A church steeped in simple-mindedness, irrationality, and flat out extremism at times. For a mind craving authenticity, I conclude that the phonyness was simply too much to bear and the highways and by ways of the world, complete with their own set of phonyness, somehow seemed more fulfilling than the dictatorial corridors of his childhood faith.

This, I believe, is how the church failed Mo. This, I believe, is how it fails so many of its youth. It is not because it lacks entertainment. It is because it lacks authenticity. It is not because it lacks programs. It is because it lacks relationships. It is not because it lacks answers. It is because it lacks questions and somehow marginalizes those who seem to have many of them. Yet over the years I have come to shed many of the absurd and nonsensical standards of my upbringing and have come to discover a simpler yet infinitely more complex relationship with God. With all of the cultural baggage that my traditional Hispanic culture brought to Christianity gone I can now see Jesus and his love much clearer than ever before. I no longer believe that a true Christian is only the one who fits into my brand of Christianity. I have met wonderful Christians who are covered in tattoos, who enjoy the bouncy feel of dread locks, and who go to church without a tie on. I have experienced Hawaiians who worship God in Hula shirts and flip-flops. I have experienced theologians who enjoy sporting a fro-hawk. I have experienced Jesus among the real, the genuine, and the broken. I have experienced doubts and wrestled with them. I have come to realize that God, the multiplex deity of the cosmos, is paradoxically simple. He invites me to have a relationship with him and to let my life be an outflow of that relationship. As Jesus once said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22: 37-39.
And as my friend Amir Davis once said, "Do the Ten. Love God. Love Men. Take care of your body. And live your life. That's all God requires of you." It really is that simple.

I wonder where Mo would be today if the church had focused on Jesus' words more than they focused on their own traditional discomforts? What if they had loved the culture instead of demonized it? What if they had shown us a God who cannot be caged, the wild lion of the heavens who cannot be controlled, and taught us to live on the edge with him? What if they had embraced questions? What if they had let go of the pretensions and gone on the journey of doubt, struggle, and pain? What if they stopped misusing Ellen White? What if they had forgotten the opinions of men and taught us to live by the Bible only? What if they had looked past the long haired guys, the braids, the jeans, and the baggy t-shirts and shown us the love of Jesus? And I don't mean shown it to us in a Bible study. I mean shown it to us with a life. I pray I wont have to keep wondering. I pray the era of the Mo's will come to an end. I pray we learn our lesson.

But that is not the only point of this article. I also want to take the opportunity to appeal to the Mo's of today. While the church has failed you, it is still within your reach to recognize that Christianity is extraterrestrial and as such it cannot be defined, contained, or limited by human culture. We may have messed it up, but you can look past our faults in the same way we should have looked past yours. While we may look at the church and find much to criticize we can find neither spot nor wrinkle in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I leave you with a challenge from Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias and it is this: "Look at Jesus and ask yourself the question, Can I find anything wrong with him?" The answer may just revolutionize your life.
Jesus Loves the Insignificant

photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

“Two days later there was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee…” – John 2:1

And so the journey begins. Jesus is now a grown man. His mission is about to start. He has a group of followers (a rough bunch I might add) and a heart for mankind. Other than that, He has nothing. No house, no lawyer, no agent and no money. Just Him,  and a group of guys. How could He fail? Well, that’s not exactly true. He also had God on His side and billions of Angels ready to do whatever He asked. But nobody could see that. To the human eye it was just a group of rowdy characters and a wild man named Jesus. Then the invitation came. It was a wedding in the town of Cana. This was Jesus’ big chance to get some publicity. But there was only one problem. It was Cana.

This may not mean much to you because you don’t know Cana but let me try to explain. I grew up twenty minutes south of New York City (NYC) – one of the most famous cities in the world. People come from everywhere to check out Times Square, Manhattan, Ground Zero, Central Park and tons of other popular spots. If I was Jesus and I had just begun my ministry and I wanted people to follow me, I would go to NYC. It’s the perfect place to perform my first miracle. But Jesus didn’t go to NYC. Instead he went to a little insignificant town to a little insignificant wedding before what the world would consider little insignificant people. Didn’t anybody tell you? Jesus is wild. So wild in fact that He actually cares for the insignificant. And it was there in that obscure little town that Jesus performed his first miracle, not before Kings and celebrities, but before servants.

Maybe you feel like a hole in the corner some days. Nobody values you. Nobody praises you. When you needed that friend, that loved one the most, they let you down. Your life feels like a vase smashed to pieces on a cold hard floor. Meaningless. Trivial. Unimportant. Unnoticeable. Irrelevant. Worthless. Colorless. Insignificant.

So what do you do? You put on a mask. You try and pretend. Nobody knows it but you. On the surface you smile on the inside you bleed. You act as though you have it all together and do whatever you have to do to avoid reality. Your life is simple. Run. Sleep. Run. Its exhausting. You want it to stop but how? So you keep wandering through life looking for whatever fix that will get you though the day. The worst part? Nobody cares. But there is one. His name is Jesus. He cares for you. For the out cast. For the ostracized, the dispossessed, the evicted. For the used. Yes! Jesus cares for the insignificant. - Jesus the Wild, Day 1: www.jesusthewild.com