The Heart of Discipline
To be disciplined means to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.
If I want to work out more, I must be disciplined. If I want to eat better, I must be disciplined. If I want to learn how to play the guitar, I must be disciplined. But will I achieve these things if I simply put my mind to the task? An important piece missing from the above definition is motivation.
We like to think we can simply discipline ourselves to do anything, but I’ve been trying to learn guitar for the past two years and I think all of us would agree that what I have to show for it is pretty embarrassing. Proof that my motivation to play Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin isn’t enough to master the guitar. Our motivation must run deep enough to support our pursuit of discipline. We might know intellectually that something is right, good or that it would be enjoyable to pursue, but we won’t follow through unless our hearts are there too.
What about spiritual disciplines?
In an ever-polarized world, there is an internal polarization that we all feel to be true. While often our society is divided on issues of politics, race, gender and border control, there is a deeper division that we experience and share only with those closest to us. That is the division between our heart and our mind. It seems as though we are sent mixed messages between following our heart and following our mind. Regardless of your religious leanings, you are probably prone to place one of these over the other. And if I were to bet which you have placed above the other, I would bet your equation looks like this “mind > heart.”
If you are an a-religious type you might think of the famous quote by Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.”
If you are the religious type you might think of the famous Old Testament passage Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Point and case, right?
The Importance of Apologetics
Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. For many of us, this season may mean little more than faint memories of noticing some coworkers walk around with dirt on their foreheads, going to fish fry’s on Fridays, or seeing the sanctuary draped in purple for a few Sundays.
However, the season of Lent is not merely a ritual of the traditional churches we once attended, but a historical practice of the Christian Church for almost 2,000 years. Therefore, we want to consider how we can join in with the historic church and celebrate the season of Lent this year together.
Serving Immigrants & Refugees
Apologetics is not, as it might sound, apologizing for one’s faith. Rather, the word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense of one’s opinions or beliefs. If theology is the study of what one believes about God, then apologetics is the study of why one believes what they believe about God. If this is what we mean by apologetics, then all Christians are apologists! We all have some reason why we are Christians. The important questions are: what are those reasons, and are they any good?
Is Nationalism Biblical?
Shane and I both grew up in the church and were blessed to feel the need for Christ early in our lives. Shane had a more devout idea of his life calling than I did as a child. He saw himself building houses in Africa, while I wanted to be single and run a farm for displaced cheetahs. Nothing against cheetah farmers, but God has since given us a calling as a couple, and now as a family, to invest in a population close to His heart: immigrants and refugees.
Taking the Next Step
As strange as it is for a Brit to be writing a blog post on nationalism so recently after ‘Independence day,’ I do want to say that apart from the unfortunate episode of wasting perfectly good tea by tipping it into the sea (a crime few Brits can condone), there are no hard feelings!
On a more serious note, anything that has a hint of nationalism at the moment is, in light of recent cultural tensions, more than a little controversial. Monument wars, protectionism, the rise of the Alt-right, the counter movement of Black Lives Matter on one side of the Atlantic and Brexit, the global refugee crisis, and cries for harder national borders on our side, have all made nationalism a touchy subject.
So is nationalism biblical? What should be our thoughts about nationalist tendencies?
To answer this, we need to briefly unpack the biblical understanding of identity and how it relates to this issue.
Stories from Bangkok
My wife Debbie and I are typically long-term planners. Organized, figured out, written down. We plan our steps in the direction that our heart beats, knowing all along that God may choose to redirect us. And though spontaneity is not a daily occurrence in our marriage, flexibility and spontaneity is a required component as we serve the Lord. Our intent is to let God steer our moving heart. He has placed within each of us a passion to follow Christ, pursue our God-given gifting, and at the same time, allow Him to have the freedom to direct our steps. We also allow each other space to serve in the areas of our strength. We are a team even though, at times, we minister in different areas. As Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one for they have a good reward for their labor.”
Vanderveen Story pt. 2
“How was your trip?” The eight members of the Thailand team have been asked this question many times since touching down at the Omaha O'Hare Airport. The team members are still asking themselves that question. “Good” seemed too simplified, “Amazing” doesn’t exactly ring true. Was there one word that we can use to tell acquaintances in passing how the last three weeks impacted us physically, mentally, and spiritually? We laughed, we cried, we prayed through physical illness and mental hardships, and some days it seemed Satan was throwing every kind of ammo in his artillery at us. How do we describe that the spiritual warfare was real and , but our God was faithful to come alongside us through everything!
Vanderveen Story pt. 1
We moved into the apartments on 51st and NW Radial Hwy out of obedience on January 6th. It was difficult to track down the landlord, and even after we had made an appointment to view the apartments, he had forgotten about us and didn't show up. I mentioned in the last blog post that there was every reason to say no to this place, but we knew Jesus was asking for our yes. We ashamedly lived for three years in our last apartment full of Americans and zero language barriers and never had a meal with any of them nor shared any more experiences than simply talking occasionally in the parking lot. We knew it would take getting far out of our comfort zones paired with tremendous effort to step into this place, build trust, get to know our neighbors intimately, and share the love of Jesus with them—all while overcoming a language barrier.
We prayed and prayed: “God, would you use us?” The first week here started off as hard as I expected. I was spending my days editing a wedding from the previous weekend (the only one I had planned for the whole year) and constantly questioning how I was supposed to reach out to my neighbors. The horrifying obstacle of language barriers, the awkwardness of just knocking on a stranger’s door with no warning and no point other than to come in and attempt to get to know them, the fear of rejection. It felt impossible. I justified doing nothing but “work” for Monday and Tuesday.
Prayer is what got us here.
And I don't mean the occasional praying in our heads some nights, tucked into our covers, minds drifting away into dreamland only half-focused on what we are saying to the Lord and half-focused on some event from our day—kind of prayer. I mean worshipful, focused, time-consuming, passionate, faithful, actually-on-our-knees daily prayer. That kind of prayer got us to this place. That kind of prayer is why my husband, Robbie, and I live in low-income, majority refugee housing here in Omaha. But it was quite a journey to this shabby space that has become the single greatest thing to ever happen to me outside of my Salvation and my marriage to my precious husband.
It is May 2018 as I write this now, but the story starts in March 2016. In March two years ago, our church, Citylight Benson, hosted a Holy Spirit conference. It was in those two days that I became vastly aware of not only my neglect of the Holy Spirit in my entire faith journey but my intense need for Him. I was thankful for truthful reminders that the Spirit was God's merciful gift to us so that we would not be alone on this earth after Jesus was resurrected and that we would have another advocate in the Spirit. (John 14:16-20). I knew the Spirit was within me now, as He had always been, but now I was passionately calling on His name, pursuing Him, and asking for His guidance every day. It began radically changing my heart and Robbie's too.