Who Reads This Blog and What Do They Think?

Ronin s Journey   Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness And Making An Impact In LifeA few weeks ago, I did a survey to get the pulse of my readers. You can still participate here. I wanted to know who you are, what you like and don’t like, what changes would help, and what challenges you face. This was to help me to serve you better. The results were surprising. Ready?

Who Reads This Stuff?

Gender

  • 60% are women
  • 40% are men

Age

  • 35% are 35-44 years old
  • 25% are 25-34
  • 25% are 45-54
  • 10% are 18-24
  • 5% are 55-64

General Belief in God?

  • 55% believe God is real and interactive in the world.
  • 25% marked other, specifying apatheistic, spiritual, and Wiccan
  • 10% believe there is nothing supernatural or outside our physical universe
  • 5% are not sure or believe God’s set it all in motion and left the universe alone afterwards

Specific Religious Beliefs? (Could mark multiple answers)

  • 55% are Christians
  • 25% identify with no religion
  • 25%  marked other, specifying heathen, spiritual, Wiccan, and identifying with many religions
  • 15% are Protestants
  • 10% identify with Buddhism or Native American
  • 5% identify with Inter-denominational, Judaism, and Catholicism

Favorite Subjects on the Blog

  • 45% like the mentorship/leadership posts (which are kind of rare)
  • 30% like the Christian Living posts on how to better follow Jesus
  • 15% like when I break down a Bible passage
  • 10% like the apologetics posts

No one likes the evangelism posts according to the survey. However, I weave both evangelism and apologetics into most posts.

The Best Part of the Blog

  • 55% like the depth of the posts
  • 35% like the practical information
  • 5% like the ease of use
  • 5% clicked other, writing in that it makes them think. If I can make you think, then I consider that post a success.

How Can I Improve (3 people skipped it)

  • 41% want a FAQ page. I don’t get any questions so if you have any, ask and I’ll see if I can answer them.
  • 29% would like shorter posts. I’ll try to keep it under a 1000 words unless it takes from the depth of the post.
  • 29% clicked other, and wrote in the following: not a thing, follow your muse, keep your editor (Hi Nay!), keep doing what I’m doing (I will but with more focus), and adding a categories page. I have a search bar on the right-hand side under the heading TOPICS where you can search by categories.

Read Any of my Books (multiple choice)

Your Biggest Challenge

  • 70% say it’s Life
  • 30% got specific: trust issues, forgiveness, health, self-hatred, anger, being judgmental, a life of nothing but work.

The last section was really important. I’ve walked or am currently walking all of those paths. Overall, you guys gave me a target to focus on and I thank you for that. Remember, if you have a question you want me to answer about myself or a topic, post it in the comments. The interesting and recurring I’ll start looking into answering and adding to the FAQ page you requested. Some may become a blog post.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. I looked at the previous two years and my top 3 posts haven’t changed. Those posts on the Founding Documents have endurance for sure.

I like numbers so if you get giddy about them too then enjoy.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,900 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Ronin’s Journey Is Being Renovated

I noticed that this blog’s reach wasn’t expanding very far. On top of that it was getting a bit convoluted. The only purpose it seems to have is to collect  my scattered thoughts. At the suggestion to read a book titled “Platform” I decided to start making some changes.

It did begin as a collection place for my thoughts. Occasionally also as a place to vent so my sanity remains. A ‘quiet place’ to introspect and to soul search. Since the loosely titled “Got Purpose” series earlier this year I have been less scattered. It’s time for the blog to reflect that. You may have already noticed some changes:

  • The titles are better (I hope)
  • More applicable posts
  • Updated information
  • First Samuel 12:24 will go dormant

These will continue to improve. What isn’t going to change:

  • The Content: the archives will stay in place
  • The Source of the Content: will still come from dissecting my journal entries, explaining how and why it works and how it can work for you. There is a reason I was called the ‘self-analysis guy’.
  • The Ronin’s Journey book project is still in progress

The future changes will show an overall theme of showing what following Jesus looks like. I want you too see the real world living out of Jesus’s example on more than just Sundays. This will show my personal ups and downs and the lessons we can takeaway from it. Haven’t you ever wondered what it meant to follow Christ?

Also, I want you to be able to take something away from my posts. I’ll need your opinion to help me with that. Let me know about the good, bad, and ugly. I’ll address any questions that I can, within reason.

Ready? Set? GO!

Mixed Messages, Does The Facebook You Match The Real You?

conscience-conscience-motivational-1321584887Over the past few months, I noticed a crisis of conscience surfacing, particularly over watching what I promote or post. I asked my closest friends, dropping a lot on their heads at once. One assured me my integrity was intact and that I’m not being a hypocrite.

I have been writing about how we need to represent Jesus, have been breaking down a book into potential Sunday School lessons, writing about discipleship, etc. I promote this so I have to be cautious I don’t promote something contrary to it. My personal failings look hypocritical enough without me intentionally adding to it. So what should be off limits?

What Is Good?

I spent hours one Friday looking through 1 John, Galatians, Colossians, and 2nd Corinthians looking for answers. I started with a search for ‘worldly’, went into the Fruits of the Spirit, and then into application in the last two books listed. What can I promote that does not run contrary to my life as a follower of Jesus?

Love, the agape kind that is a verb —the kind found in 1st Corinthians 13; joy; peace, a content tranquility; patience; kindness; good; faithfulness; gentleness; and self-control. A rare person or law would honestly disagree with these. They are the same traits Jesus has and believers have when they walk in the spirit, in biblical terms these are the fruits of the spirit.

Then there is forgiveness, where you give up the right to get even; repentance, turning away from the destructive choices in life; reconciliation; humility, which is thinking of others before you think of yourself, which leads to acts of service for the needy. I found these in Galatians 4 and Colossians 3. The reason I do them is the natural outpouring of gratitude and the Holy Spirit working through me.

What Is Opposed to Good?

quote-do-not-follow-vain-desires-for-verily-he-who-prospers-is-preserved-from-lust-greed-and-anger-abu-bakr-10478Great, now what opposes these, simply, so I do not have to consult a list? One of Jesus’s disciples, the Apostle John, summed it up in his letter 1 John from 85AD. The three attitudes he listed are just as prevalent today as it they were then. Most actions have the underlying attitudes of self-gratification, materialism, and power.

How many are preoccupied with self-gratification? What about ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ to gain bragging rights? Here is the one I am guilty of —obsessing over where I rank, how important I am; wanting power and achievement.

These attitudes when taken to extremes become people’s gods or idols in Bible terms. It swings both ways, too; therein is the danger. The opposite of self-gratification – lust – is self-control; the former makes you a slave to your desires while the latter can lead to pride in how controlled you are – asceticism. The line to walk is enjoying the good in moderation without making it something you live for. I should probably apply this to the sausage and biscuits from the church’s kitchen…

The danger of generosity is becoming so generous that you become a burden for others by neglecting your own necessities. The line to walk is not to be overly attached or greedy. There is a quote attributed to Wayne Gerard Trotman that sums up the two attitudes well: “Instead of loving people and using money, people often love money and use people.

Even altruism has an extreme, where a chosen issue becomes your god or you put your faith in your good works to get you to Heaven. The good works come from the gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross; his traits grow as we serve out of love, loyalty, and to show Him to the world. That line I keep bringing up is moderation, instead of excess.

Why Should Christians Be Careful of What They Applaud?

Fifth GospelI cannot appeal to lust, materialism, or ego-centrism, and the vices that flow from them. I don’t represent just myself anymore. Colossians 3: 17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Then I discovered 2nd Corinthians 5: 10 – 7:1, the same letter I referenced last week. In it, Paul gives us the model and reason to follow it. I encourage you to read the entire passage. For the sake of space, I will only highlight certain verses.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”

The Great Commission, our everyday walk with God, it is a big responsibility in reaching and teaching about Jesus. While we still get to Heaven because of Jesus’s work on the cross, we still have to answer for what we do.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Bobby Conway phrased it this way in the Fifth Gospel: He died for us, is it too much to live for him?

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”

Instead, use the filter that I wrote about in Looking through God’s Eyes based on John Easter’s sermon. Using John 3:16 and personalizing it with other’s names.

“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I think Paul was off-handedly referencing the command, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.There are different and creative ways we can do this personally, working with others, or both. What stuck out to me was ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors’. Like the ambassador of a foreign country and its government, we represent the Kingdom and Jesus here on earth.

“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses…in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors… sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

The Sad Reality of First Impressions

I rediscovered where I got the phrase “stumbling block” when I wrote Represent. People find many faults in Christians and use it as a reason not to come to Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit to help us display Jesus, yet we also have to be careful in how others perceive us.

We may not like the idea of first impressions but they exist and matter. The more we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 4), the easier it is. Some will celebrate, some will understand, some will not understand, and others may even work against us, yet we persist.

The Danger of Mixed Messages

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

This goes back to what I listed from 1 John, the attitudes are like big “I” idols. Modern idols these days are the many things people live their lives for. I cannot compromise and keep my integrity intact by willfully working towards self-gratification, greed, or power.

Former detective J. Warner Wallace in his book Cold-Case Christianity wrote that all the crimes he investigated had at least one of these three motives: sexual lust, greed, and power. Does this look familiar?

The Answer Isn’t Isolation or Limp-Wristed Christianity

When Jesus was here, he did not condemn the seekers and the open sinners, but he did not condone their behavior either. He often told them after he forgave them to ‘go and sin no more.’ He sure did not enable them to continue the direction they were going either.

I noticed two things in my studies that made Jesus angry or frustrated: self-righteousness–see Matthew 23 if you want to know how he feels about hypocrites—and getting between people and God. He literally flipped tables over that one, called Peter the devil, and told the disciples that it would be better to drown in a lake than keep the children from him – kids were treated differently then. I think enabling others to continue their line of thinking because a Christian is doing it would qualify.

Second Corinthians 6:18 leads into 2nd Corinthians 7:1:

“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

It is a process; I fail in my attempts and being like Christ is a life long journey. I just have to make sure I do not willfully decide to do anything that is sketchy. To make sure my own pet sin of self-righteousness is in check by remembering where I was, who brought me out of it, and not to condemn others personally, nor support their actions. Being salt and light won’t allow that.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I’m to work for the good of others, to love them as people; following the golden rule of doing for others as I would like done for me.

Jesus replied: “‘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.”

cs-lewis-quotes-inspirational-7At the start of the year, I wrote about simplifying your life by taking anything that does not help the goal and discarding it. Also a teaching of Jesus in the teaching style of hyperbole when he spoke of cutting off an offending hand, actually. The number one goal was “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and sometimes it means a reevaluation on what works against that, is neutral, and works towards it. It is a lot to think about.

I Have No Idea If I’m Doing This Right

I do not see why people jockey to be a leader, making their sole ambition, even taking tests online to see if they are a leader or not. The acid test of leadership is if anyone is following you without being paid for it or for the perks. I manage a team within the church that picks up paper and coffee cups in the sanctuary and wipes the counters in the bathrooms after services to prepare for the guests coming next.

I try to be a leader, and have been working on how to be better at it by learning from my mistakes. The team started with me and Casey cleaning after the three Sunday morning services. We grew by another person, and I could rotate who had the trash detail so everyone could get a break from it. 

Later, we gained another team member on a different service. That enabled me to rotate days off so people can rest a little. The sanctuary team has two people except for Sunday nights where I work alone. Our newest team member is the one who challenges me.

I sat down in the stairwell between services one morning with this thought in mind: what is servant-leadership? I think it may be a continuum. First, you have to serve, and serve well enough you set a standard. You hope that this inspires people to see what is going on and join with you. Then you get beside them and help them get to a level where they do not need you anymore.

What example can I look at? To put a spin on the old phrase “What Would Jesus Do”, I wonder, What Did Jesus Do? He modeled his instruction, living it every day he set the example. Nothing was beneath him, from hours of teaching without rest, interacting with everyone, touching lepers—which made him ritually unclean by Jewish law—to heal them, and even washing the disciples nasty feet at the last supper to set this example for them.

I still do not have much of an idea of what I am doing as far as leading; all I can figure is continue being an example. I still want the team to grow as people and in numbers so they can do more in other areas. Porscha, Casey, and I are in multiple ministries in different areas and that helps us grow. We all have to start somewhere, just as I started with the cleaning team and now that is just a part of it all.

It might be time to read a book or two about it…I have a couple in mind.

Human Kintsugi; You’re Not Broken Forever

Whenever we break a coffee cup, it generally ends up in the garbage, unless it is just the handle that breaks off. That gets super-glued back on. Broken things are unusable, right? In Japan, there is a process of fixing broken pottery that has been raised into an art form. It is called kintsugi. They fix it by filling the broken places with a gold lacquer, in a sense embracing the brokenness.Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

Earnest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong in the broken places.” Except even strong, broken people have a hard time holding the pieces together. Eventually Hemingway committed suicide. No matter the level of inner strength, it’s finite. He did accomplish writing timeless books even with his limited vocabulary.

I had to face my own brokenness the first two weeks of July, starting with the holiday weekend. Neighborhood kids blew up some fireworks next door and it startled me. I made a mental note to find a way to drown out the noise in case they trigger a flashback. A picture on TimeHop had already triggered one earlier; I did not want another one. Later there was a big bang, except I wasn’t in our little house; I was taken back to the bathroom two years earlier listening to screams. I teared up as I dug out my earbuds, cranked up my music, and later putting on muffs because I could still hear the fireworks in the background.

A week later, we were back at the old place, cleaning out a shed and getting the last of our things. It was the longest I had been there in months, and I usually do all I can to avoid anything that reminds me of the accident. Five hours into it and I’m tense, anxious, the atmosphere felt heavy; it reminded me of the days immediately after. Then the flashback, I freaked out and left, racing home where I sat for two hours calming myself down. This is a problem bigger than me…

I made an appointment with my doctor to verify what I suspected, post-traumatic stress disorder. I looked into it about a year and a half ago and thought I had avoided it. ‘It didn’t break me, just almost broke me’, I had told myself. The doctor said short of a psychologist or psychiatrist doing a DSM-IV to empirically confirm it, it looks like I do have PTSD. I’ve been in psychotherapy, counseling, grief counseling, and learned how the Stoics sucked it up and moved on, yet I still have the cracks and hold myself together.

Except in kintsugi, the pottery is not fixing itself. There is an artisan who is taking the broken and making it beautiful. Nick Vujicic was born without any limbs yet he is an evangelist and motivational speaker. The former lead singer of Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, planned to commit suicide one day when her grandmother took her to church—not knowing her intent—where she met a guy. One of my friends is in Celebrate Recovery; he is being led to be a public speaker and apologist, because he met a guy. This guy is an artisan; his work is seen in many broken people.

In 2nd Corinthians 4: 5-18 Paul tells what is going on:

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe, and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Yeah, we’re all broken in one way or another, our weakness is apparent, and through that weakness God can work. We can identify with other people in the same spot, give advice that comes from experience, and more importantly listen to them with understanding. We can build a bridge and walk with them to introduce them to the reason for the hope that we have, Jesus Christ.

Humanity: The Common Denominator

Listening to a visiting missionary one evening, I heard something that stuck out to me about human nature. He was showing videos of some of the countries he had gone into and in one, we saw where Buddhists had destroyed one of the churches. A little later, we saw where in another country there were some other Buddhists who regularly cooked a meal for the kids at another church. People from the same group, who were doing two different things with different intentions.

Weeks ago, an individual walked into a black church, visited, and was welcomed by them until he left. Then later, he returned and killed nine of them. Pictures soon surfaced of him holding the battle flag of the armies of North Virginia and Tennessee during the Civil War, popularly known as the rebel flag. Now it appears that an element in society is trying to scrub anything to do with the flag or the Confederacy off the map.

The thing is, it is a symbol that has different meanings to different people. To go after it is seen as an attack on their identity, like when someone goes after your political party, or sports team that you align yourself with. It is not flown in battle anymore; now it is a symbol of heritage that was co-opted by racists. Like the Buddhists, I mentioned earlier, one group was committing vandalism; the other was working with a different religion in peace to care for children. By which group is the whole to be judged?

The problem is not symbols or what identity we choose for ourselves; the problem is we as humans. Case in point, Bill Cosby had the reputation for being a wholesome actor – recently he admitted to drugging women. It is individual people that are the problem, despite what we want to label ourselves.

It is as old as humanity, The need for a moral code to guide is as old as humanity; the need of it actually reveals the darkness in our hearts. Jesus pointed it out in Matthew 5: 17-28, we have the capacity and desires to do wrong. As a man makes a life-long commitment to a woman in marriage, that he will forsake all others, yet acting out a sex scene in his mind about the woman next door proved that the desire to break that commitment is there. Someone cuts you off in traffic and wanting nothing more than to choke them for it shows the desire to hurt another person. Take a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, hitting and biting their parents, then replace them with an adult doing the same thing; the difference is the ability to hurt while both have the same intent.

That nature in us is called the sin nature in the Bible. The best analogy I have seen for it is comparing it to cancer. The sin nature is inherent in the same way cancer cells are our own cells turned against us. The first ends in eternal suffering and the second to physical suffering. We go see a doctor about both of them.

A book I was reading-the name escapes me-had a chapter on how Jesus operated. He approached everyone as if they were sick and he had the cure, forgiveness. It was not a prescription to keep these 10 commandments to be cured any more than a strict diet change destroying the cancer cells. He puts the cancer of sin into remission until it’s cut out, and out of gratitude people started to change their lives.

It is summed up like this in Luke 5: 31-32:

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What is wrong with the world?

We are. We are all sick. The Good News is the doctor is in, and he is accepting patients free of charge. It is as simple as admitting he is Lord, believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved. Your trust, aka faith in your heart that he paid for your sins in your place, is what justifies you, to paraphrase Romans 10: 9-10. He did it for me. You can read Year of the Prodigal to see the before and after of my case.

Go see the doctor.

Protection, Temptation, and Farming?

People make me…think. Particularly a guy at work when we get into theological discussions. This leads to either confusion, a thinking on paper post, or a surprising light bulb moment. This time it is the latter. He said people could push God’s hedge of protection off them, and then he tied it to Job, and Jesus’s temptation in the desert. Then he challenged me to look it up.

So I looked at the verse he referenced in Job 1:10, and Matthew 4:6 which quotes part of the 91st Psalm. He fixated on the stone in the verse as a way of pushing protection away. The only way I could think of the stone is like the ‘rock in your shoe’ that is on your mind every time you step on it.

On a larger scale, Satan tempted Jesus in three areas – you do not need God because you can do it yourself, nothing is going to happen (here I think is what Eric meant about pushing the protection), and personal power. The replies were depending on God- do not foolishly test him, and the greatest commandment. That is the only way I could tie that into each other; however, in thinking about the ‘stone in the shoe,’ I could apply that to the parable of the four soils.

In the parable, the seed was the Word of God, the good news of Jesus, and it finds itself in one of four areas. On rock where it doesn’t take root, rocky, thin soil where it sprouts before dying soon after, in the weeds where its stunted, and in good soil where it prospers. If you can get someone to consider something, the rock is like the seed; whatever it is you want them to think of, they will receive in one of four ways. I did not expect it to go from a hedge of protection to parable on fruitfulness, but my brain does go to weird places occasionally.