Now Let’s Go!

If you have never watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk in which he talks about “Why” before “What” and “How,” you must. Sinek reminds us that knowing what we do and how to do it doesn’t serve us well in life, individually or when we lead others.

When I quit practicing the Christian disciplines close to 40 years ago, I sensed God saying, “Do you know how long I’ve waited for you to quit? Now let’s go.” What did “Now let’s go” mean? It meant going right back to practicing the disciplines in almost the same manner as before. So, what was different?

Everything! I knew how to practice disciplines. I knew what to do. And I thought I knew why I was practicing them. It was my version of “why” that was at issue. In the context of wanting to serve God well, I focused on reading and studying scripture (as well as praying) primarily “so that” my ministry might succeed (or, not fail). Plus, I wanted to be a better Christian. A noble quest. It was after our cross-county move and with no ministry left in the equation that I quit. I lost the motivation to continue.

I see “Why” and motivation as quite similar. The definition of motivation implies the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. My motivation was to succeed and to be a good Christian. Two issues with that:

  1. God never asks us to be successful. He only asks us to be faithful. When orphans were starving in India at a greater rate than her little orphanage could serve, Mother Theresa was asked by a reporter how she could feel any sense of success. Her response? God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful. In western thought, we have equated success and faithfulness. The sooner we figure that out (change our minds, repent), the sooner we can get on with a full life.
  2. God never asks us to be good Christians. Read the scriptures. Read the Gospels. It’s not there! The Pharisees – a sect of religious leaders in Jesus’ day – fell into the false understanding that it was their job to read and study the scriptures so that they could be good Israelites. All God ever asked of the them was loyalty to Him and thus his creation (this is the essence of the two great commandments of which Jesus spoke and the words of Micah, the prophet).

The Pharisees’ motivation was clear, but wrong. They knew their reason for acting and behaving in a particular way. And they were sincere – very sincere. But wrong. Their “why” did not line up with God’s. They were disciplined in their search of scripture, looking for life yet missed life when it was revealed through Jesus.

Likewise, I was sincere and disciplined in searching the scriptures, but for wrong reasons. The Celebration of Discipline was initially an unhealthy read for me. I thought I was to try to conquer the disciplines (succeed). As I strove to succeed at practicing the disciplines, it felt like I was spinning plates. At some point, I listened to a cassette tape by the author, Richard Foster, talking about the disciplines, reminding us that the purpose of the disciplines is to place us in front of the Father so he can transform us. THAT was transformative and freeing! Once again, my “why” had shifted.

Oh that we could have eyes to see and ears to hear that much of what motivates us is cultural and not biblical. Father, show us where we might be missing the mark.

Circa 1981…I Quit!

After eight years of serving as a volunteer Young Life leader, we were surprised when God lead us away from our comfortable life and vibrant ministry to…[wait for it]… Muskogee, OK, “a place where even squares can have a ball” (Merle Haagard). We were 750 miles from anything familiar – job, family, stores, church, ministry, etc. We were experiencing a mix of adventure and loss.

I took my faith seriously. I tried to practice the classical disciplines described in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline (well, sort of – 3 of the 12 disciplines). I read and studied scripture and prayed regularly – almost daily. A few weeks after our move and the start of a new job, something strange happened regarding the practice of the disciplines – I QUIT!

One morning while biking to work, I was wondering about why I had quit, why I had zero motivation to read, study, and pray. From somewhere inside my head I heard, “Do you know how long I’ve waited for you to quit? Now let’s go.” I can’t say that I audibly hear God’s voice on a regular basis, but I am pretty (very) sure God was speaking to me that morning. And I had no doubt what he meant. Looking back, I realized that all my reading, studying, and praying had a “so that” attached. I think I attended to these disciplines so that the ministry I led would be successful. Understand – I certainly benefited from all my reading and studying, but apparently something was amiss.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what was amiss, but I was sure that God wanted me to go right back to reading, studying, and praying (I suspect it’s what “Now let’s go” was all about). I found a greasy spoon restaurant near my work (circa 1981 was pre-coffee shops) and determined to stop there every morning before work to read and spend time with God. The restaurant opened at 5:00a and I gave God permission (like he needed my permission) to wake me up whenever he wanted. 4:30a became quite common! As I am wont to do, I purchased a used Amplified New Testament, a translation unfamiliar to me, and dove in. The Amplified translation expands the English to better align with the richness of the original Greek. One morning, about 6:00a, I stumbled across this…

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power out-flowing from His resurrection… (Philippians 3:10, AMPC)

This resonated deep within my being. I parked on the passage for a some time, pondering its significance. When he wrote this, the Apostle Paul was in jail in Rome, awaiting trial, aware that the outcome might be his death. And yet, his determined purpose was to progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Jesus, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly! Paul, one of the most successful ministers ever, the writer of much of the New Testament, was focused not on his ministry, but on progressively knowing Jesus! I discovered what was amiss. I was so focused on the success of my ministry that I lost sight of simply knowing Jesus. So, with determination, I set out to progressively know Jesus more deeply and intimately.

We can be so busy working for God that we totally miss Him. A couple years ago I graded papers written by people after they read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. There was a common theme in the papers: I am so busy working for God that I don’t have time to spend with him. Some even confessed a “so that” attachment to their devotion to God. I prayed for them – that they might quit some day. I’m sure glad I did!

The Visible Expression of the Invisible God…

Circa 1973. God had drawn me into youth ministry through Young Life, a non-denominational outreach to teenagers. I was serving teenagers in my hometown, working full-time, and pursuing an engineering degree taking classes a couple nights a week. In the midst of it all, I tried to read scripture with some consistency and with some success. In the 70s, we didn’t have the availability of scripture translations and paraphrases as we do today, but we had a few – King James, Revised Standard, New American Standard, The Living Bible, The Good News Bible, and a favorite of Young Life staff, the J.B. Phillips New Testament.

Early into my Young Life experience, at a volunteer leader training, we were pointed to Colossians 1:15Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God (Phillips). The passage, it was explained, was a cornerstone to Young Life talks – we wanted kids to know the real God and the real God made himself visible through Jesus. Jesus revealed God’s character, compassion, and heart for people. In preparing Young Life talks, I diligently worked at helping kids see this Jesus, the visible expression of the God they could not see. A few months into the beginning of my Young Life tenure as a volunteer leader, a thought occurred to me: I didn’t know God or Jesus, save a few stories I learned in Sunday School*…..

In the midst of a fairly busy schedule, I embarked on a year-long quest to know God. It didn’t start as a year-long quest. It started as a one-time reading of the the Gospels in my brand new J.B. Phillips New Testament, underlining and highlighting with a red colored pencil as I progressed. After an initial read, I decided to read them again – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – marking the pages with a different color. I was amazed to discover how much I didn’t observe in the first go-around. So I read them again. I soon realized that my eyes were drawn to passages that were already highlighted. So I bought a new bible of a different translation and repeated the process, highlighting new discoveries about Jesus (and thus about God).

Seven translations and a year later I felt I was ready to adequately venture into other parts of the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. As I look back 45 years, I have to believe that year was one of the most transformative experiences of my faith journey. It’s what likely saved me from the tenets of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It set me up to know Jesus (not just about Jesus). It set me up to give decent Young Life talks. It set me up to be a better husband and father. It set me up to learn to read Scripture exegetically. IT SET ME UP FOR LIFE!

I am amazed how few people have actually read straight through the Gospels even one time, which is why I give everyone I mentor the exact same assignment – read through the Gospels. When done, I usually have them repeat the process. Invariably, I get the same response – it was a transformative experience (a common ‘practical theology’ theme, you’ll notice). If you happen to be one that has never done a read-through of the Gospels, then you know what I would suggest. I sincerely hope you would heed the suggestion. My heart aches when I realize how few Christians spend time in the Gospels, and thus with Jesus. How else will we ever know Him?

* I had the privilege of joining a group of people to hear George Barna give a researcher’s perspective of what is needed to develop our young people in today’s culture. He said research shows that most church children and youth teachings tend to focused only on about 20 basic Bible stories. (In one of these posts we will need to discuss “kindergarten faith.”)

How do we know…?

It was the mid-1980s, a couple years after discovering I wasn’t the Good Samaritan. I had taken some Young Life kids to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota for stress camping, hoping it would stretch their developing faith. It did just that, but I felt the experience was still a bit self-focused. So we decided in subsequent years to take kids out of their comfort zones into a serving capacity. What we did was a precursor to today’s mission trips. Our first trip was to Haiti. Our second trip was to Kansas City, MO, to work with Habitat for Humanity. The third trip was back to KC, helping a large, white, urban church re-purpose some underutilized space. They wanted to create a community ministry to their neighbors, including the construction of space for a food pantry.

To set up the trip, I visited the church to see what work needed to be done and to begin planning for the project (I convinced them, as an engineer, I could serve as the project foreman). During the trip, I spent much of my time with the pastor. He had a significantly different worldview than I did – enough that I knew I could/should learn from him. Still trying to figure out how to navigate and interpret scripture in an exegetical manner, I asked him, “How do we know how to interpret scripture properly? After all, we have been at this a lot of years, yet we seem to have a lot of differing opinions.” His response was transformative…

He reminded me that scripture should always be interpreted in context. (I knew this already, as did most people I suspected.) He went on to remind me that the broader the context, the better. (I think I knew this as well, but wasn’t sure how to do it practically.) The broadest possible context for interpretation, he suggested, is the entire Word of God – the whole Bible. (My first thought was, “Serious? How is that even practicable?”) Then he made a statement that sent chills through my body…

“And always remember,” he said, “the Word became became flesh (John 1, 14). If what you are reading doesn’t line up with Jesus’ words and deeds, then there is something else going on in the passage.” This resonated with me. This was such good news. I could wrap my head around the concept that all scripture needed to align with the Word that became flesh, with Jesus. This made scripture reading and honest attempts at interpretation possible and practical.

That was about 35 years ago. The adage that all scripture needs to align with Jesus has served me well all these years. Do I still have questions about the paradoxes presented in scripture? Absolutely! (Maybe even more questions as I get older.) But this I can rest on – with Jesus as my standard, I can live with the paradoxes. Why? The paradoxes drive me back to Jesus and the more time I spend with Him, the more I understand what God is up to. And the more time I spend with Jesus, the more my mind is shaped, allowing for transformation (Romans 12:2) – I actually start to become like him (Philippians 2:5-11).

The Opposite of Eisegesis…

Old habits are hard to break. After living in Red Wing, MN, for seven years we moved to Memphis, TN, at my company’s urging (meaning, my job moved to the corporate headquarters in Memphis). After moving, I still needed to return to Red Wing periodically for factory visits. It was a bit odd staying at the local Best Western located a mile from our old home.

During one visit, after a long day at the factory, I headed to the hotel in my rental car. I drove right past the Best Western to our old house, unaware of the mistake until I drove down the street and saw unfamiliar cars in the driveway. Old habits are hard to break.

Last week I introduced the term eisegesis (ˌī-sə-ˈjē-səs), which is the reading of a text through the lens of what we already believe to be true. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” meaning we speak into the text our preconceptions. The opposite? Exegesis (ek-sə-ˈjē-səs). The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of,” meaning the reader allows the intent the text to “come out,” informing his or her beliefs.

I suspect we have been in the habit of reading scripture though the lens of our preconceptions for so long that we drive right by exegesis and end up at eisegesis. The Good Samaritan parable might be adequate proof of that reality. We have been flying upside down a long time as Dallas Willard would remind us. So, how do we get right-side up? First, we recognize we are at the wrong house, change our mind, and head the other direction (this is the definition of repent). Then we rethink how we approach Scripture. Here are a few simple questions to ask as we invite Scripture to speak into our lives:

  • What stands out to me? How might God be trying to grab my attention?
  • What is being said in this passage?*
  • What is NOT being said? (This is a biggie)*
  • What does this passage tell me about who God is?
  • What does this passage tell me about who I am?
  • So what? What am I to do with these thoughts? How might God be asking me to change my mind?

There are plenty of other questions we could address, but this is a good start. It takes practice. Anyone that has played a sport knows of what I speak. Changing a swing, serve, stroke, or stride takes time, effort, and thought until it becomes second nature. Same with the shift from eisegetical to exegetical Scripture reading. But when it does become second nature, Scripture comes to life, transforming our lives! (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Romans 12:2)

* Case is point: Several years ago I was meeting weekly with a group of college-age young people. We were working our way through the Gospel of John. When we arrived at the well-known John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life), I asked them to close their Bibles (or Bible Apps) and paraphrase the verse. They collectively thought the verse was about them going to heaven. None of them saw the word world. None! (And they were also a bit surprised to discover that heaven is not the same thing as eternal life, but we’ll save that topic for another time.)

“You are NOT the Good Samaritan”

Hearing this statement at a Young Life conference 35 years ago set me on the path to discovering the Jesus of scripture. The speaker (I think his name was Bob) wanted the audience to understand that we tend to eisegetically read scripture. Eisegesis was a newer term to me – one of those theological terms that I thought was of no practical use. The speaker proved to me otherwise.

Eisegetical scripture reading, Bob explained, happens when we read the text through the lens of what we already believe to be true. What we read is shaped by our preconceptions. As I took notes, this cognitively made sense to me. I prided myself that I certainly was above reading scripture through such lenses. Then the speaker rocked my world, wounded my pride, and pretty much disrupted everything for me.

Turning to Jesus’ parable we know as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Bob showed us just how real and subtly we read eisegetically. I remember him asking the audience, who in the story we most identified with. It seemed like we all figured we were the Good Samaritan, or at least tried to be. I know I assumed as much – after all, that’s what Jesus was asking of us, right? It’s what we learned in Sunday School.

Then the unraveling began. Bob helped us understand that Samaritans were despised (nay, hated) by Jesus’ audience, the Jewish theologians of the day. Some members of the Jewish nation had long prior compromised their charter and beliefs and married people outside their faith and ethnic group. These were the Samaritans. They were called half-breeds and dogs. When people traveled to Jerusalem from Galilee to honor God through the various annual festivals, they added days to their journey just to avoid Samaria. The parable, the story that Jesus told, was in response to a religious expert’s question:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”  The expert answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

As Jesus told the story, one could envision the legal expert understanding why the priest and Levite passed to the other side of the road, away from the robbery victim. They were on their way to serve in the Temple and contact with a bleeding person would have disqualified them to do their jobs. It was the law. However, what probably made the expert’s hair stand up on the back of his neck was Jesus’ introduction of the Samaritan as the ‘good guy.’

Wanting us to get the effect of what Jesus was saying to his audience 2000 years ago, Bob retold the story in modern terms. He talked about a pastor or a Young Life leader passing to the other side of the injured man. Then Bob went on to say, “But a Homosexual, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck! Not so much because he said ‘homosexual’ but because he had messed with scripture, that he had messed with the neat, domesticated story I was so familiar with. I was no longer the good guy – that was no longer on the table as an option.

What’s more, Jesus’ primary point wasn’t to be a ‘good’ Samaritan. The expert wanted to know who his neighbor was. After hearing the parable, he had to admit that his neighbor was, in fact, the Samaritan (though he couldn’t bring himself to utter ‘Samaritan’), and that’s who he was to love.

Who might Jesus substitute for ‘Samaritan’ today, if he were to tell the story in a manner that might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? It’s an important question that we may not want to think about. Discovering the Jesus of scripture is a wonderful thing, but doesn’t come without the undoing of our domesticated version of Him or without some angst. But, as I said in the previous post, it’s well worth it!


Sunday School Answers

Billy attended school with me during my early Junior High days. He was in most of my classes. He was also our pastor’s son. He clued me in on something in seventh grade that might have had a larger impact on my life than I might have expected.

We were part of a Sunday School class of all boys (at least, that’s what I remember). I also remember that we were a typical group of seventh graders with built-in ADHHHD. Paying attention to the teacher or lesson was not high on our abilities or agendas (I suspect most of us were not in the class by choice). Billy’s clue was related to our Sunday School class. He told me he learned from his dad that if asked a question by the teacher and unsure of the answer, “Jesus” was always a safe response – a “Sunday School answer.”

One Sunday I was particularly distracted when, toward the end of class-time, our teacher asked me point-blank if I knew the answer to the question he had just asked. I had no idea what he had asked! And I was pretty sure he knew I hadn’t been paying attention – I suspect the question was his way of letting me know. Remembering Billy’s suggestion, I said, “Jesus!” emphatically and with confidence. The teacher looked a bit surprised and said something like, “Yes! And don’t ever forget it!” Class was over. I got the answer right and I didn’t even know what the question was!


“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

C. S. Lewis spoke of first things throughout his writings. Just yesterday I was speaking with someone who had recently stumbled onto one of his essays that pointed readers to first things. I wonder what Lewis’ answer would have been if asked, “What is the first thing?” I suspect he would have said, “Jesus!” emphatically and with confidence. And he wouldn’t have been offering up a Sunday School answer.

Today if asked about the first thing, I answer emphatically and with confidence, “Jesus!” Many would agree with me. However, the answer begs a follow-up question: “Which Jesus?” Sounds like an odd question, but not really. One could be talking about the Jesus of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, whose job is to make us happy and show up when we need him. Or the Jesus of economic prosperity who lavishes us with material blessings. Or the Jesus we draw into our political bents to help us gain control over the ‘other.’ Or the western version of Jesus (or eastern). Or a Jesus whose main role is to simply get us to heaven. These incomplete Jesuses are a result of putting second things first – which is what he can do for us.

The first thing must be the Jesus of scripture, the real Jesus, not a ‘Jesus’ informed by culture, ideologies, or what he can do for us. The first thing must be Jesus only. Period. It takes concerted time and effort to see past the pseudo-Jesuses to the Jesus of scripture. I speak from experience. I can also speak from experience that it is worth the time and effort. It’s transformative.

It all starts with an open, honest perspective of where one is now. So, ponder for a bit: In what ways might the ‘Jesus’ you know be shaped by outside ideologies?


First Things…

“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”

C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock. (My emphasis)

I first heard this quote about five years ago as part a Sunday morning message by Bjorn Dixon at The WHY Church. At the time, I was wrestling with my dissertation topic as well as looking for ways to describe Jesus’ focal message of God’s Kingdom in ways that not only made sense, but that might lead to transformed thoughts and lives. Hearing this simple statement was an aha! moment for me. It was the missing link for which I was looking (though likely at the time I wasn’t even aware what I was looking for!). It was the cement that brought together much of what I have been processing in recent years (keep in mind that recent years for me has been the past 15-20 years).

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, spoke of a young military pilot who was flying her fighter jet through a series of maneuvers. In the process, she got disoriented. In her disorientation, she had been flying upside-down unbeknownst. She decided to take her jet into a climb and promptly drove it into the ground.* Willard suggests that American Christians have been flying upside down for so long, we don’t know what right-side up looks like. What’s worse, we are cruising along at 1500 MPH, thinking we are doing just fine – until we find the need to climb, only to crash and burn. We are all witnesses of Christians that have crashed and burned along the way.

Dallas Willard is onto something worthy of our attention. I suspect that our western-influenced version of Christianity has focused on ‘second things’ for so long that we might not know what would constitute ‘first things.’ I have witnessed this many times over the past couple years. In a number of group discussions with various youth ministry leaders, I suggested we create a white-board list of First Things and Second Things. Invariably, what people suggested as first things were, in fact, second things. We have been flying upside-down for a long time!

Rereading the previous post, one can began to see that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a direct outcome of a long-standing focus on second things – like how we are to act, what God can do for us, etc. And a long-standing focus on second things will require more than one blog post. Stay tuned as we continue this discussion…

* I remember this crash that took place in the 90s. It led to creating a gyro-related system to eliminate future such events. Its the same technology that is used in ‘steadycams’ used in film-making.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

About 15 years ago, Christian Smith released the findings of qualitative research he conducted, interviewing approximately 3000 high school students (Smith & Denton, 2005).  His summary interpretation of kids’ statements about religious faith and practice: “we suggest that the de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might well call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’” (p. 162).  The tenets or creed of this “religion:”

  1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when He is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Though this ‘creed’ is particularly apparent among kids with Catholic and mainline Protestant backgrounds, it is also quite evident among Protestants that are more ‘conservative’ in theology and practice.  In their summation, Smith and Denton provide three points worthy of consideration:

  1. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) is about the indoctrination of a moralistic approach to life.  Many sermons are moralistic in nature.  “Do good, try not to do bad” is the mantra of a moralistic version of Christianity. 
  2. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is “about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents” (p. 163).  Simply stated, God’s main job is to make us happy.  MTD is not about repentance, gratitude, dying to self, building character through difficult circumstances, giving of one’s self to social justice, etc.
  3. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism follows the basic tenets of deism – God created the universe and humanity, defines the general moral order, but is not particularly personally involved in the affairs of humans, especially where we prefer he not be involved. We call on him only when necessary and blame him when we are not happy or when things don’t go our way. Deists view God as “watching over us from above.”

Though Smith’s research is almost 15 years old, it is fair to conclude not a lot has changed in the course of the past decade or so.  Therefore, it is imperative that we be aware of the tenets of MTD as we communicate what following Jesus looks in our culture(s).  We want to help people know Jesus; MTD focuses on what we can get him to do for us.

Reference: Smith, C., & Denton, M. L. (2005). Soul searching : The religious and spiritual lives of american teenagers. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.


One Small Step…

I am on my way to Albania to serve Young Life in the southern Balkan countries of Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, providing several leadership development educational opportunities. Key to surviving a 19 hour, three-legged trip is Audible and a couple great books. One book I hope to get to is First Man: The Life of Neil. A. Armstrong.

It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I remember staying up late into that hot July night, listening on my GE transistor radio ear piece to the broadcast of the Apollo 11 landing. It seemed like Armstrong took forever to finally climb out of the lunar module, Eagle, once it landed. When he did, I got to hear his famous quote live: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” I was fascinated with space travel from its inception. I especially followed the Apollo missions. When John F. Kennedy declared, “We choose to go to the moon” during a speech in Houston, I was 12 years old. I was 19 the night of the landing in July 1969. A moon landing was accomplished in seven years. Talk about focus!

There were several Apollo missions to the moon prior to Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing. I soaked it all up. I recall the first time an Apollo spacecraft left earth’s gravitational pull and entered into the pull of the moon’s gravity. It was a specific point in space in which the gravitational pull was zero. I remember a count down from Houston: 3,2,1… you are now being drawn in by the moon. Prior to that, the spacecraft’s engines were ablaze as it fought the pull of earth’s gravity. After reaching the zero-gravity point, they could begin to shut down the engines and coast toward the moon.

I suspect had Houston not informed the Apollo crew of the zero gravity point in space, they would have traveled several thousand more miles before they might have noticed. They weren’t focused on the point of zero gravity, they were focused on the moon. Passing through zero gravity was something that happened along the way on the journey to the moon. It’s quite possible they could have focused on reaching that point and ended up missing the moon by tens of thousands of miles.

John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 30:30). Christ-followers seek that. We would love to get to that point in life where it’s more about Jesus and less about self. Here’s the rub. In our desire to reach that crossover point in our journey where it becomes more about Him, we could easily end up making that our focus. Wrong focus! We want to focus on Jesus and along the way we get to a place where it’s more of Him and less of us. Unlike traveling to the moon, we can’t calculate when that might happen. It’s a natural outcome of focusing on Jesus. It’s metamorphosis all over again. I’d be willing to bet that if my focus is the crossover, I might never realize it. But if my focus is Him, then it might actually happen. If it does happen someday, I likely won’t be aware of it for a few years; not until looking back I realize something changed and I don’t have to strive as much anymore – not coasting, but sort of.