One Tip for Discerning Spirit Vs. Flesh

Galatians spirit fleshDo you struggle to discern whether you are being led by your flesh or by the Spirit?

I know I have struggled with this many times. It’s often after I’ve made a selfish choice and see how it impacts others that the better path is seen more clearly.

Here is what I’ve observed in my own life:

The flesh is self-centered in everything.  The flesh is primarily self-concerned.  The flesh seeks self-preservation.  The flesh attempts to live through self-reliance.

The focus of the flesh is: how does this circumstance benefit me?  What keeps me on top?  What makes me feel good? How can I get my way?

Thankfully, Jesus destroyed our self-centered flesh on the cross and replaced it with the life and love in His very own Spirit.

The Spirit of Christ – the carrier of divine life and love – is contrary to the self-centered human spirit.

The Spirit is others centered.  He pours out His life to benefit others.  Primarily, He pours out the life of Christ into us for our benefit!

Note that in the context of Galatians 5, Paul compares the fruit of the flesh against the fruit of the Spirit.  What is attributed to “sinful flesh” is stimulated by selfishness.  What is attributed to the Spirit is of mutual benefit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc).

Therefore, in daily life, we can look at the motivations of our actions to determine their source. Is it to benefit ourselves above others, or is our motivation to serve others at our own cost?

Of course, this does not mean that you cannot take care of yourself, or that you must abusively neglect yourself or your health.  But we generally will look out for others and take care of others first, or see that whatever they may need from us is provided. In healthy relationships, there will be a give and take, with each person serving the other and also having time to meet their own basic needs for physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Question for discussion:

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Is There a Clergy-Laity Divide in the New Testament?

clergyIs There a Clergy-Laity Divide in the New Testament?

If you feel uneasy about the way that much of church today is conducted, you might benefit from listening to this video of Dr. Jon Zens as he discusses the “tip of the iceburg” of the clergy-laity distinction.

I’ve been part of group for the last five years that meets without this clergy-laity divide in place.  Each person is free to function and participate in church meetings, and each person is depended on in various ways as life is lived out together.

The result is an expression of Christ that functions as a close-knit family instead of an institution.

I think when the filter of the typical church experience in America is removed from our reading of the New Testament, a new vision begins to stand out that reveals the preisthood of all believers, where all have responsibilities within the body as the Spirit leads.

For more books, articles and messages from Jon Zens, check out his website Searching Together.

You can subscribe to Jon’s quarterly magazine here.

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Should We Use the Name “Christian”?

rp_christian-300x155.jpgI previously asked you to give your thoughts on using the name “Christian” to describe people who follow Jesus Christ.  You can read that post and the comments here.

I’ve seen more and more friends and people in the media withdraw from using this term.  They will typically say that they believe in Jesus, but they no longer identify with the Christian label.  Instead of Christian, they will call themselves something along the lines of  a follower of Christ.

Honestly, this is really just semantics, because they Christian means one who follows Christ.

Unfortunately in America (I really can’t speak much for other cultures) Christians have by and large earned a bad rap.  There have been too many financial scandals, political pressures, celebrity icons, coupled with a generally judgmental and condemning attitude towards the culture for that culture to really take Christianity very seriously, or better yet to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ through the church.

How “Christians” Were Named

Christians didn’t choose to be called anything.  It was the culture around them that first used to term Christian to describe the people who were following Christ.

Frank Viola writes in The Untold Story of the New Testament Church:

The church in Antioch has grown so large that Barnabas can no longer care for it on his own.  He remembers Saul and recalls that Saul speaks Greek, that he is from the Hellenistic city of Tarsus, and that the Lord called him to minister to the Gentiles.

Barnabas heads out to Tarsus to search for Saul.  After searching the city, he finds Saul and brings him back to Antioch.  The two men spend a year strengthening the church there.  Barnabas is doing most of the ministry, and Saul is an apprentice to him.

In Antioch, Saul lives with Simon of Cyrene (also called Simeon), his wife, and his two sons, Rufus and Alexander.  Simon’s wife cares for Saul and acts like a mother to him.  (Simon carried the cross of Christ.)  The believers are first designated “Christians” (Christ’s people) in Antioch.  They do not call themselves Christians, nor is this name given to them by the Jews (for the Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah).  It is rather given to them by their Greek-speaking neighbors.  The reason?  The believers are constantly talking about their Lord, just as Jesus constantly talked about His Father.  The Christians in Antioch are consumed with Jesus Christ, and out of the abundance of their hearts their mouths speak.  The new movement is also called “The Way” – a term the Christians use for the way of salvation and the way of life.  In Palestine, the Christians are known as “Nazarenes”.

Again, it was the culture that defined the name.  In today’s culture, the name Christian has widely been redefined from meaning “consumed with Christ” to meaning “hateful, judgmental, bigoted, legalistic, controlling, selfish, hypocritical” and so on.

And this is a sad reflection of the condition of the church today.

How I Use the Term “Christian”

Personally, I will sometimes use the term “Christian” in a very general sense to identify with the historical church of Jesus Christ.  But I would typically use the term with other Christians.

If I’m talking with someone that I suspect has a negative view of Christians and the “Christian” issue comes up, I would say that I do follow Jesus, but I do not really identify much with Christianity as it exists today.  Sometimes this will even open a door to some discussion about Jesus and the church.

I also like the term “life in Christ” instead of “the Christian life”.  I think “life in Christ” focuses more on the life being in and through Jesus, not me.

Unfortunately, the bride of Christ has been hijacked by many so-called leaders who have abused and misrepresented what she stands for.

I long for the day when the culture once again sees a church consumed with Christ and calls her “Christian”.

Follow the Life!

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Is the Word “Christian” Dead?

I’d like to ask you all to answer a question: Is the word “Christian” dead?christian

I’ve heard celebrities and friends disavow the word Christian as an accurrate description of someone who is following Jesus.  Many people have chosen to use alternative titles to avoid being associated with a negative view of Christianity by much of the culture today.

1. Do you use the word “Christian”?  Why or why not?

2. What do you think our society associates with the word “Christian”?

3. If you don’t use the word “Christian”, but you do follow Jesus, how do you explain it to people?  What alternative word/phrase have you found to be better?

I will wait a few days for some responses and add some thoughts of my own.

Please share this post so there are more responses!

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Experiencing Christ Facebook Page!

Hello Dear Readers (both of you)…

I have set up a Facebook page that is connected to this blog.  The page is also called Experiencing Christ, and the url is https://www.facebook.com/#!/experiencingchristblog.

In addition to sharing blog posts on the Facebook page, I’ll also be sharing quotes from books and articles I’m reading, and other links that you may find enjoyable.

You can use the link above to find and like the Facebook page.  If you like it, please consider sharing it with others!

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My Hopes For this Blog, And Why I’m Not Going to Share Posts In Facebook Groups

I recently moved this blog over to a new, dedicated website and installed a professional blog theme. I’m still tweaking some things, but I like the look and feel of it so far.

As the name of the blog implies, my focus here is on what it means to “experience Christ”. I want to focus on knowing Christ in a deep and profound way that informs my life here day to day, and conforms me the nature and character of Christ. Essentially, this is about learning who Jesus is as a Person and what it means to live by His indwelling Life/Spirit in the world today. On top of that, I also want to focus on what it means to know and experience Christ together as a community.

So the posts that I write and the resources I share will be aimed to that end. I want to do my small part to fill up the blogosphere with Christ.

I hope that you find the articles here helpful and valuable. If you read something you like, I’d like to ask that you click on one of the sharing options at the end of each post. There are options for Facebook, Twitter, Email, and others.

Facebook seems to generate the most traffic. Posting on Facebook is like the ripple effect of throwing a rock in a pond. When you share something on Facebook, chances are that your friends’, friends’, friends’ will see the link. Consequently, the reach can be quite far.

Also, if you want to get notified of new posts, you can add your email address near the top right of the screen and you will receive new posts by email. If a new post is released, you’ll get an email with a link at 8:00 in the morning.

What I’ve been doing to share these posts is to go on Facebook and share links in various related “groups”. While this does generate traffic to the blog and gets people reading, I really don’t like filling up those groups with blog links. The groups are generally created for discussions, and not a bunch of “hey, read my blog” links. I’d rather you share something that connects with you in whatever group you frequent. So going forward, I’m not planning to share the posts in Facebook groups myself. Again, if you happen to find something of value, I’d love it if you shared it instead of me. (I’ll still post on my own wall and in a couple of groups that are made up of people I know personally.)

I plan to set up a Facebook page for the blog in the near future when I have time and I’ll share posts there as well.

I also hope that the posts here can develop some dialog, so always feel free to leave a comment and expand on or question what I’ve written. The comments are moderated to avoid uncivil arguments or personal attacks, so this should be a safe place to share your thoughts.

As far as scheduling goes, I want to try and post my main content on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with smaller posts, notifications, or resources on Tuesday and Thursday.

I’m also working on a “Recommended Reading” page that will list some of the best books I’ve read on certain topics, which I’ll update as I read new books.

Since I’m employed full time and a husband and father of three kids, my time is limited and it takes a lot of effort to fit in time to write. But I love the process and I want to make it a priority. Due to my personal time constraints, my posts for now are shorter in nature. However, I’m working on some more in-depth articles that I will share in time.

If you’re reading this blog, I want to sincerely thank you. By reading what I’ve written, you are blessing me with the gift of your time, and there’s really no greater gift we give to each other. (Rick Warren has said that love is spelled t-i-m-e.)

I would appreciate it tremendously if you would consider the following:

– Sign up for the email list.

– Share posts you like on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites.

– Leave a comment on posts you like. I’d love to read your thoughts and interact with you.

Follow the Life!

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How To: Simple Tips for Listening to Podcasts On the Go (For iPhone/iOS)

So, you’ve heard about podcasts.  You know people that listen to them.  Maybe you know someone that creates them.  But if you’re like me, you haven’t had time to figure out how to fit listening to them into your schedule.  I am hoping to help you with this today!

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to podcasts, but have mostly reserved it for when I have time to sit down in front of my computer for about an hour and just listen, which is not very often.  This means that I often don’t get to listen to podcast episodes that I’m actually very interested in.  However, just like music, podcasts can be great to listen to while you are doing other daily tasks: driving to and from work, exercising, walking the dog, eating lunch, and so on.  Frank Viola recently blogged about this here.

But you have to have a device set up to do this. For a long time, I just didn’t take the time to figure it all out.  Recently, however, I was motivated by some travel plans to sort it out and catch up on some podcasts. I’m going to be using my iPhone5 with iOS7 as my example device.

1. Making Space

The first tip is to investigate how much free memory is on your device.  Not having enough available memory has been one of the biggest obstacles for me to take advantage of podcasting on the go.  I’m not on WiFi while doing most of the activities that I would multi-task and listen to podcasts, and I don’t want to stream them over data.  I needed to have the podcasts I want to listen to downloaded on my phone, but I was always out of memory.

Here are some ways that I have found to deal with the no-memory issue.  On the iPhone5, go to Settings > General > Usage.  The amount of free memory will be listed at the top of the screen.  You’ll want to have about 100MB available at least.  This will give you room to keep a couple of podcasts available on your phone at any given time.

podcast

Screen Capture: Memory Usage Info

Here is how I’ve managed to free up space on my 16GB phone.  First, I delete apps that I don’t use routinely.  Once you’ve downloaded an app from the iTunes Store (free or paid), it is attached to your account forever.  You can re-download the app at any time.  For example, I travel several times a year for work so I have downloaded the apps from most of the major airlines.  But I only need to use those apps once or twice a year each.  So I’ve deleted them from my phone and only download them if I have a trip coming up with that airline.  Similarly, if I have a game that I haven’t played in a long time, I just delete it.  When you sync your phone with your computer you can see every app that you’ve ever downloaded, whether it is on your phone or not.  Also, if you access the iTunes Store from your phone, apps that you have downloaded previously will have a cloud icon instead of the download icon, so you can always go back and grab an app when you need it.

Also, when you are in the usage settings mentioned above, you will see a list of installed apps and how much memory each one is occupying.  Look at the ones that take up the most memory and decide if you can let any of those go.  If you have an app that takes up a lot of memory but you still want to keep it, you can see if there are any other comparable apps that take up less space.

The second thing I’ve done to save space is to reduce the amount of music I keep on my phone.  When iPods were first introduced, I got the biggest one so I could keep all of my music with me all of the time.  But I found that I only listened to about 20% of the music 80% of the time.  And now I have an iPhone instead of an iPod, so I’m sharing less memory space with both apps and music.  As a result, I’ve removed a lot of music from my phone that I hadn’t been listening to anyway and I connect to my laptop every couple of weeks to rotate through what I have.  I’ll take a few albums off of my phone (whatever I’m tired of) and pick out some things from my larger library on my computer.  This keeps me from giving up too much space to music and keeps me rotating through fresh music.

The third thing you can do to free up memory is to delete unwanted pictures and videos and download the rest to a computer.  I keep certain pictures on my phone, but I delete most of them once I have downloaded them to my laptop.  On the iPhone, the Photo Stream option also counts against your memory.  I only keep the best of my photos in Photo Stream to save space.

The fourth easy way to clean out some memory space is to delete text messages.  Just go in to your text message app and swipe right to left on conversations you are willing to delete.  This will delete the whole conversation between you and that person(s).  This will definitely open up some space, especially if you tend to send pictures or videos over text message.  Again, on the Usage screen, you can see how much memory is currently allocated to text messages.  If it’s high on the list, you might want to consider deleting some conversations.

2. Download the Podcast App

This one is pretty simple: download the free podcast app on your device from the iTunes Store here.

podcast 2

Screen Capture: Podcast App Icon in Bottom Left Area

3. Subscribe to Podcasts

Once you download the app and open it, you can use the Featured, Top Charts, or Search options to find the podcasts that interest you.  Once you find something interesting, open it and press the Subscribe button.  The podcast will now appear in the My Podcasts section of the app and the most recent episode will be available for streaming. The kinds of podcasts available are endless.  I listen to a few Christian podcasts, a couple of business development type podcasts, a podcast for learning French, and a podcast of great speeches from history, just to name a few.  There are podcasts on new music, news, news satire, sports of every kind, travel, story telling, comedy, education, and on and on.

podcast 3

Screen Capture: Browsing Featured Podcasts in App

 4. Add Older Episodes as Desired

In step 3 above, when you subscribe to a podcast the most recent episode will automatically be available.  Underneath that episode you will see a link that says Add Old Episodes.  Select this link and all of the episodes ever published for this podcast will be displayed.  At the left of the screen, episodes you have selected will have a purple circle with a checkmark inside.  Episodes that have not been included will have an open circle.  Select all of the episodes you are interested in and then select Add in the top right corner.  Don’t worry if you don’t get every one you are interested in; you can always come back and add more. Note that this does not download them to your device.  It only makes them available.  The podcast is still online and can now be streamed over WiFi or data, or downloaded to your phone.

podcast 4

 Screen Capture: Add Old Episodes View

5. Download the Next Couple of Episodes of Interest While on Wifi

Once you have some podcasts and episodes available, choose a podcast and download the episode you want to listen to the next time you are on the go.  Download it by selecting the cloud icon with the downward arrow while you are on wifi (at home, work, in a coffee shop) to avoid taxing your data plan.  Download two or three episodes, based on how much free memory you have (see step 1).  You will notice that the cloud icon disappears for downloaded episodes.  This allows you to see which episodes are downloaded and which ones are still in the cloud.

6. Delete Episodes After Listening

Once you have listened to an episode and you are done with it, click the circle with the “i” in it for information about the podcast episode.  In the screen that opens, select the option at the bottom that says Remove Download.  This deletes the episode from your phone.  When you go back to the list of episodes, the cloud icon will reappear, indicating it is now only available for streaming.

podcast 5

Screen Capture: Inside the Info Link, Select Remove Download

7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 As Needed

Once you’ve listened to an episode and removed the download, repeat the process above to download the next episodes you are interested in.

With these simple steps, you can take advantage of whatever podcasts you find interesting and better utilize your downtime or on-the-go-time right from your phone without running over any data limits.

There are other podcasting apps available, but most cost a couple of dollars.  I’ve found the steps described here to be very straightforward and productive.

I hope you have found this helpful!

If you have any additional tips, or would like to comment with your favorite podcasts, please do so in the comments section.

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Coming Friday: Experiencing Christ as Light

Some Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

Blogging is supposed to be interactive, right?  I mean, the whole idea isn’t that all kinds of people create endless streams of information and data that we each consume with no interaction is it???

Over time, I’ve picked up a few things that seem to make the whole world of blogging a lot more fun, beneficial, and interactive.  Here they are:

1.  If you have your own blog, read other people’s blogs, too.  Readers make good writers.

2. Subscribe to blogs that you frequent by email or in a reader.  This way you don’t miss the updates, and you make the blog host feel good.  This keeps good bloggers blogging.  (By the way, you can subscribe to this blog in the right hand column.)

3. Leave content rich comments on other people’s blogs.  Don’t just “like” the post, or leave a comment that says “thanks” or “great job”.  If you relate to the experience, share how.  If someone’s story impacted you, tell them how it made you feel.  Offer constructive, encouraging feedback.  Recommend resources.  All of this increases the interaction on the blog and builds the online community.

4. Leave content rich comments, but remember to use brevity.  Keep it fairly short.  I cringe at comments longer than two or three short paragraphs and just skim.  Just sayin’.

5. Give options on your blog for people to share your posts on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc.  (Note that you can share this post via the links at the bottom.) Post your own entries on those sites that you use.

6. Share other people’s blogs that impact you.  Maybe someone else will also benefit from it or add to the discussion.  Use Twitter, Facebook, etc.

7. If you’re a blogger, connect with people who share your links or comment on your blog.  Responding to and acknowledging them helps build the community.

Update: I almost forgot this one!!!

8. If you leave a comment on someone’s blog, check the box under the comment box to receive follow up emails when someone else comments on that post.  This way, you see the discussion that develops (without having to go back to the blog) and you’ll know if someone responds to your comment and is waiting for another response from you. 

These are just a few things that I’ve learned.  What would you add to this list???