pecaspers: a Blog in transition

January 27, 2014

New Year, New Bible

This is my new Bible.

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It’s, as you can see, a Chronological Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation.

For a while now, I’ve read through a different translation of the Bible each year. It wasn’t all that intentional at first, but I’m on a pretty good streak. (Of years, I mean. Day to day, it’s rare that I string more than a week together without something derailing at least one day’s extended reading time.) Sometimes, I’ve chosen to simply read book by book through a regular version of the Bible. The rest of the time has been spent working through various study Bibles, reading every last note and article along the way. I’ve gone through The McArthur Study Bible in the NASB translation, The Holman Illustrated Study Bible in–obviously–the HCSB (scathing review pending), The Daily Bible in the old NIV, as well as at least one round through the old NIV, and twice through the ESV.

It’s not complicated. Reading 3 chapters a day carries you through the whole Bible in a year. Typically, you can read only 15 minutes a day and be on track to finish in a year. Reading a study Bible with all it’s notes and such will mean that you either spend more time reading or cover less ground each day of course. I typically read complete “episodes,” which is to say I’m looking for natural breaks in the narrative as places to stop. Sometimes that’s hard, but most of the Bible really is in story form. There are also more reading plans out there than you can shake a hardback KJV at. In fact, many Bibles have one or more reading plans mapped out in some of their supplemental materials.

This year, the Bible of choice is the previously mentioned and pictured Chronological Life Application Study Bible in the NLT. I went Chronological because I found the format very helpful at connecting concurrent events across various books the last time I read a chronologically ordered Bible some years ago. I went Life Application Study Bible because I wanted a study Bible that was less scholar-directed and more average-Joe oriented. So far, it’s been good for my soul to see some simple truths highlighted and applied to everyday life, even my everyday life. I went New Living Translation because I wanted read the whole New Living Translation. That’s supposed to sound obvious. I like the NLT in general. If you are looking to do in depth Bible Study, then it’s not the way to go because it is very interpretive and fluid in the translation philosophy. However, that’s precisely what makes it so easy to read, and that readability is what makes it such a popular translation. So because I know some of my people will be using it, I want to have experienced all of it as well. Besides that, I enjoy the flavor of many of the translation choices, for lack of a better way to put it.

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I’m not posting any of this to say “Hey, look at how awesome I am at reading my Bible.” I am trying to encourage you that Bible reading isn’t that hard and is super rewarding. You can’t deeply understand any one part of the Bible if you don’t have a basic familiarity with the whole thing. That’s not to say you can’t be a Christian until you’ve read the Bible, but what kind of Christian are you if you’ve never read the whole story of the Christ? Do you not want to know this God you claim to worship? Too many “Christians” are like the people Moses led out of Egypt who when confronted with the power and glory of God revealing Himself on the mountain said, basically, “You go hear from God, then come back and tell us about it.” (It’s in Exodus, which you know if you are a Bible reader.) Those people died in the wilderness because they didn’t really know and trust God, and that’s my fear for a person who calls him/herself a Christian but refuses to take up the discipline of Bible reading. “Pastor, you go hear from God, and then come back and tell me about it.” Are you asking someone to tell you about the light rather than opening your eyes?

Hopefully that last paragraph wasn’t for you. I read the Bible because I love the Bible because the Bible tells me about God because He loves us and wants us to know and love Him. God wrote a book. Have you read it? Why would anyone ever stop?

August 9, 2013

Hustle

Filed under: Hustle,Job Hunt,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 10:31 AM
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[This might become a book one day]

I used to hustle. I was never great at hustling in all areas of life, but there was a time when the hustle would instinctively kick in. It still kicks in when the pressure is on and things just must get done, and that keeps me hopeful. However, chances are that the drift will continue away from hustle until I’m merely dragging my butt over everything I do unless I fight back.

That would unacceptable. That is why I must fight back.

Maybe you didn’t play sports, weren’t in Scouts, never participated in marching band, and missed out on all other disciplined, physical, group activities in your early years. If that’s you, then you might not understand the concept of hustle. Go watch Remember the Titans, Drumline, and Up; those movies are all about hustle. (Up? Really? Yes, Russell wasn’t all that smart, but the little dude had hustle.) For the rest of us, we know that “Hustle!” was the basic demand of every leader who wanted expected you to move quickly from task to task and consistently maintain discipline in whatever that task might have been.

When I played Dixie Youth baseball, Coach Bud would yell for us to hustle as he made us run our little prepubescent butts back and forth. If you were the chubby kid at the back of the pack like me, then you got to run more in order to sweat the weakness out so the hustle could have more room to work. When I was in Boy Scouts, hustle was getting things done quickly and efficiently–keeping meetings on track, setting up camp before the sun set, getting the fire started early enough so that you didn’t end up eating undercooked meat, and working hard on service projects so a quality job was done faster and better than you would ever expect a group of volunteer teenage boys to manage. Hustle is why in the Auburn University Marching Band “early is on time, on time is late, and late is inexcusable,” and “there’s no walking on the band field.” Hustle wins games. Hustle wins awards. Hustle gets things done. Hustle makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Thompson High School band director Jon Bubbett would say “Pride is an attitude that separates excellence from mediocrity,” and I would now say that hustle is the overflow of a good and proper pride–meaning the healthy desire to do well at whatever you do because you respect those you work for, those you work with, and yourself.

In his book Start, Jon Acuff offers help on walking the road to “awesome” rather than “average.” He talks a lot about hustle making the difference between those two paths. Hustle is not the same thing as awesome, but you don’t get awesome if you don’t have hustle.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my hustle. (I’ll save my thoughts on that for the another post.) Like I said, I never had a lot of hustle, but the hustle I remember having was far greater than the piddly little bit of hustle I can scrape together these days.

It’s gotten better over the last few months. I’ve been working on upping my hustle for a while. I’ve worked up to being able to run 3 miles in 30 minutes without stopping and dropped thirty pounds in the process. That took some hustle, and it’s built up my stamina so I can keep hustling longer and better in all things. I’m doing better in my practice of spiritual disciplines, Christian hustle. I have producing plants in my garden. This post is even evidence of some hustle.

The point is this, I’m shooting for awesome. I can’t get to awesome without hustle. It didn’t take long for me to realize I lack the hustle to be awesome. Oh no! What will I do? Simple, I’ve got to work out my hustle muscle.

I firmly believe discipline begets discipline. That’s one of the reasons I started running. I hate running, but it has helped me grow in discipline. You can’t really have hustle without discipline. You can quickly flit from thing to thing, but that’s not hustle. Trying to hustle without being disciplined, that’s how you burn a day without getting anything substantial accomplished. That’s how you end up, theoretically, sitting down to look for churches to send your résumé and end up on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, and four hours later you don’t have an envelope to put in the mail, and it’s time for lunch/dinner/bed so you quit and leave it for later. But I digress.

Discipline is foundational, or it is at least the platform on which hustle stands. (Given enough thought, I’d probably argue that the gospel is foundational, upon which stands the Christian Worldview, upon which stands God-honoring discipline…or something like that). You must have discipline if you are going to build hustle on top of it. Likewise, you must have hustle if you are going to build awesome on it. Discipline is what gets you out of the bed in the morning to get life done. Hustle is what gets you up early enough to walk toward awesome and still get life done, and hustle gets life done in such a way that you have time throughout to keep progressing toward awesome. Hustle also allows time for more growth in discipline, which allows for more hustle, which allows for both more discipline and more awesome; and so on it goes.

I want to be awesome. So no more walking on the field for me. It’s time to get my hustle back.

March 14, 2013

I Hate Running: Thoughts on Discipline

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:43 PM
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Have you ever hear of a “runner’s high”? It’s some sort of euphoria you are supposed to experience when you take up distance running.

I have never felt that.

I (dramatic pause) HATE (more pause) running.

Tonight, I made the mistake of trying to go for a 2.5 mile run too soon after a heavy dinner. I cut my run short by about half to avoid any scenario involving puking. Cutting it short wasn’t ideal because I missed my run yesterday, but I guess now I’ll go back to my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday run schedule.

As the New Year began, I purposed to get back to training as though I had a race to run. My father-in-law, who likes to run marathons, got us to run a 5k with him last year. The pounds were dropping as we trained for that race, but they not-at-all-surprisingly came back on when I stopped training after the race. So as a means to the end of getting in sight of 200lbs by the end of 2013, I downloaded a 10K Trainer app and started getting after it.

There haven’t been many days I’ve missed so far. I’ve gotten to the point where I can jog for a full 25 minutes without a break–when I don’t have steak and potatoes weighing me down, that is. In two more successful runs, I’ll be pushing it toward 27 minutes. And of course, the eventual goal is to be able to run a 10K in about an hour of solid jogging.

But let me reiterate that I hate running. I do not enjoy my runs, at least not the running part. I do enjoy getting the time to listen to sermons, podcasts, music, etc. I enjoy the chance to get out of the house. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve pushed myself beyond my former limits. But I hate, I hate, I hate the running.

Typically I get about half a mile behind me before contemplating punking out. Then, I decide that the growth in discipline is worth the effort and keep pressing on. A little after half-way through, I’ll start setting short-term goal to overcome. “Just make it to the stop sign, and we’ll see how we’re doing then,” I tell myself. When I reach the goal, I realize I’ve got more in me, and I keep going. With about 5 minutes left, I’ll start to tell myself that it would just be embarrassing to quit after making it so far. My go-to internal encouragements to get me through the tough spots are that (A) Jesus endured worse, so I can make it through this to His glory by His Spirit in me; (B) Satan likes failure and quitting, so keep going just to stick it to the Devil; (C) Jessica will find it sexy how strong and awesome you are if you keep going. Option C isn’t strictly true of any individual run, but I’m holding out hope that it proves true in he long…run. (I tried to stop that pun, but what’s the use?)

So why do I run?

The Apostle Paul says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

One of my biggest ongoing struggles is consistency in discipline. There are virtually no expectations or limitations put on me by my church. Other than Sundays and Wednesdays, nobody constrains me to be anywhere or do anything in particular. It’s easy to be wasteful and poorly prioritized with so much flexibility in ordering my time. And so, that is where 1 Timothy 4:8 comes into play.

The “some value” of “bodily training” includes the fact that discipline begets more discipline. Now, obviously the health benefits are there, and I’m running for those as well. However, developing a more disciplined life is more of a driving force in my taking up running.

And since running is a practice in developing discipline in my life, it’s really not a shocker that I hate it. See, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV). Discipline is always unpleasant in some sense. It costs some sacrifice of blood, sweat, tears, or worse. And yet, don’t miss the promise. Discipline produces righteousness, and righteousness IS pleasant and peaceful.

And so I run. I hate running. If by running I might come to be more like the Savior I love, then I’m going to need new shoes because I have a long way to go.

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January 14, 2013

Resolutions Have a Bad Reputation

Every New Year, millions of people claim they are making “resolutions” without really planning to discipline themselves to make the change stick. Because of this, some people would argue that even having New Year’s resolutions is pointless and just another meaningless–even bad–part of our culture. I think that line of thinking is ridiculous.

Just because most people play at making resolutions like they play at Santa Claus doesn’t make it a foolish thing to use the New Year as an opportunity to begin a new effort in personal growth. The rolling over of a calendar year is a great time to reflect on the year(s) now past and decide what needs to change for the year(s) to come. While the date is rather arbitrary, Jan. 1 is as good a day as any to set ourselves up for some self-discipline, and the cultural celebration of leaving the past behind to move toward a brighter tomorrow means that we can catch a little positive momentum from those around us–even if they aren’t as thoughtful and intentional in their resolutions as we are.

What dooms most resolution-makers to failure? Well, I’ve already mentioned that many don’t really have any intention to follow through. For those who actually want to see some change in their lives, there are two big flaws in most people’s plans. One is, in fact, the complete lack of a plan. Two is the utter vagueness of the resolution itself.

One of the most common resolutions is weight loss. Most people don’t attack that goal with a plan. I’ve done it before. I’ve set the goal of losing weight only to discover that months or years have gone by without me doing anything substantial to reach that goal. If you’re going to lose weight, then you have to have a plan. Any change takes time, and there are usually small steps to get that change to stick. But if you don’t know what steps you intend on taking, then it’ll be hard to take any. It’s also hard to gauge your success if you do make any progress. So, you have got to have a plan.

But if you’re resolution is just “to lose weight,” then you’ve run into my number two. If your target is just a haze, you’ll never hit it. You can’t measure success on a vague goal, either. Sure, you can pat yourself on the back for any little win, but you usually have nothing firm to hold on to.

With these things in mind, I’m resolving the following common things:

“To Lose Weight” – I am resolved to reach the end of 2013 at 200 lbs or less. I’ll spare you the details of my plan, but it includes daily sweating and a return to training like I have a race to run.

“To Read More Good Books” – In another post later on, I’ll see if I can list out the books I read in 2012. I try to rotate through some basic categories as I read. The Gospel, marriage, pastoral ministry, missionary biography, classic fiction, current fiction, and what I’ll call “special topics.” Right now, I’m reading The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler. Next will likely be the Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage which I should have read last year or before but didn’t. The Puritan classic, The Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter is probably my first pastoral ministry book for the year. I haven’t chosen my next missionary biography, but I’ve got a few on my shelves that I haven’t read yet. I often get my classic fiction fix via audiobooks, but I’m thinking I’ll pretty quickly plow through a copy of Dune that I pulled from the free bin at 2nd & Charles a while back. I often read fiction concurrently with heavier topics. Current fiction isn’t a priority worth planning, but I’ll see what the next big thing is in a few months. In “special topics,” I’ve already got a copy of Francis Chan’s Multiply, and I’d like to get Mohler’s Conviction to Lead. After that, it’s time to cycle back through categories…or adjust/add to my categories. …So many books, so little time.

I am further resolved that 2013 will be the year that I…

…Get my family out of poverty. This is going to happen as a simple reality of finding a new position in vocational ministry which is paid full-time. It is also the transition I am most excited about. I am… Nah, that’s a post for another time.

…Become pastor of a church. This too brings me a lot of hope when I think about it. I know God has a place for me, and I’m looking forward to finding and settling into it. I just hope I am not presuming on The Lord that my search will end before 2013 does.

…Become a gun owner. I jokingly tell people that I need a shotgun because I have a daughter on the way and need something to clean whenever the boys start coming over. That has some truth behind it, but there is also just the masculine instinct that tells me I ought to have a weapon which can be used against anything or anyone who threatens my family–snakes, zombies, intruders, an over zealous government, whatever.

…Become a father of two, one of whom is a daughter. I know, I know. That’s not really a resolution, but it a major transition that will occur this year.

I’m hopeful about all these things to come in 2013 and more. All of this is of course under God’s sovereign hand and you should read “if it is the Lord’s will” before and behind all of the above.

I’m going to have a great year…I just know it.

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