Sunday, June 15, 2008

Close of Blog

(Clif Davis)

This is the last new entry in this particular blog. We will be closing the comment section of this blog as well. It is not that we think as individuals or as a church that we have the disciplines down pat. Instead, we want to allocate our resources this summer to more than maintaining this blog.

If you would like to have more conversations with people about spiritual things, be bold and start some! I am glad for those who had some conversations on-line that I could read!

If you need more godly input into your life, keep in step with the Spirit and take the next step. Perhaps a summer Bible Study, or a one night a week volunteering with a homeless shelter, or mentoring a younger Christian, or talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses or… Feel free to chat with us (in person, phone or email) at the church and we can connect you with people so you are not going alone.

Before I sign off, I would like to thank all the readers, writers, and those who left comments. Thanks as well to the staff and elders for including the Spiritual Disciplines as part of our year of learning to love well. Thanks to members of the Technical Arts Ministry and others who did the behind the scenes work that make technology a tool we can use to further God’s kingdom.

Let’s keep talking about how you are keeping in step with the Spirit.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Serving the Poor

(Rich and Lisa Phillips)

Some of the patterns that connect us to God are person-to-God. But other disciplines are with people--like worship and small groups. Another person-to-person pattern that we can build into our lives is serving the poor. Rich and Lisa Phillips share us some journal entries about this pattern in their lives. They collect items from Trinity Baptist Church and transport them to a food pantry in called “the Hill” in New Haven. Sometimes they supplement the gifts from people at church with shopping they do. They mention that "we build relationships with people we would probably not otherwise have met! And we love these people! Uniting in spirit and in purpose in Christ has real life benefits that far exceed the outlay of time and energy."

Here are some journal entries:

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....We went to Trader Joe's today to grocery shop for the food pantry. We always enjoy picking out the food and doing our best to make complete meals. We picked up bags of apples, oranges and potatoes so they would have some fresh food for a change....

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....With the food we brought home from shopping and the bags of donations from church (thanks to all who donate! Please keep them coming!!!) we have a full load! Trunk, back seat to ceiling, floor and some in the front seat too! We're thrilled and they will be too. Lots of people to feed so this is excellent.

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....We tried calling Atticus Bakery to see if they had the leftover bread of the day to give away but they were out...so we headed straight to the Hill section of New Haven to do the drop off and to see our friends.

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....We decided to visit the Adkins to congratulate Pastor on the completion of her degree; we hadn't even known she was working on it! I guess she wanted it to be a surprise to everyone when she did. We ended up hanging out at their house for a while and we got to talking about how we'd come to know in a very real way, not just in a superficial, head knowledge kind of way, but a deep down appreciation of the reality of what Jesus did for us and just how great God is (not that we even know the half of it!). This, especially, in light of all of our past experiences! Let's just say we weren't a bunch of goodie-two-shoes before we started paying some attention to the Lord. "God really IS good" is all I can say, to accept a crew like us; He's lavish in His love, and we have Jesus to thank for unlocking it for us. We're just so amazed how our Father can bring people, who might not otherwise have ever met, together, when we decide to take Him up on His offer and take that first baby step on the trail He's shown us....

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....What a great time it is dropping by Everlasting Word's office! Pastor and Overseer have got to be the most enthusiastic people we know; we always feel like we're walking into a long-overdue family reunion! We were told that they hadn't been able to purchase from the Connecticut Food Bank this month so we could be a bit freer to put some tracts in the grocery bags of food. The CT Food Bank, unfortunately, doesn't allow it's clientele to "advertise" (my word, not theirs...you know what I mean though) their church/religion since the state is involved. This time, though, a salvation message will be given directly (instead of indirectly since the bags are coming from a Christian organization).... God's Word never returns to void!!! It's great when there are enough alternate sources of food besides the CT Food Bank since we are freed from its legal obligations.

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How have you connected with God through serving the poor? Encourage us by writing to the blog.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

(Don Hay)

Today I want you to think about SPIRITUAL GIFTS within the context of the Spiritual Disciplines that we’ve been studying. Many lengthy explanations of spiritual gifts have been made by theologians much smarter than me, so I won’t attempt another here. Suffice it to say that spiritual gifts are based on the biblical idea that:

A) God has made you for a purpose (Eph. 4:11-13).

B) When you give your life to Christ he gives you his Spirit as a seal of your future in heaven (2 Cor. 1:21-22)

C) Through the Holy Spirit, God gives you power to live for Him today as you pursue the acts of service that God has prepared in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10).

Spiritual Gifts are the divinely acquired tools that enable you to be God’s hands and feet in this world. They are unique, God-given pieces that you intentionally invest toward accomplishing God’s work around you. In other words, your acts of service, when done according to your individual gifting, is God’s supernatural thumbprint on this world.

By now I hope you’re asking, “So what about spiritual disciplines?” Great question! I was able to attend the A.W. Tozer workshop with Dr. Lyle Dorsett a few weeks back and he really inspired me as he spoke about God’s Spirit in our lives. One of his points was that our service for the Lord must always flow out of our awe and adoration for the Father. Without an active AWE of God’s character and ADORATION for who he is our SERVICE is empty. The spiritual disciplines that we’ve all been learning about are essential because they represent our efforts toward arranging the habits of our days to better position us to realize and respond with AWE and ADORATION to God by offering our unique “wiring” to his service.

It’s not enough to learn—we must act. How are specific spiritual disciplines equipping you to leave God’s thumbprint on the lives of those around you? I’d love your thoughts about how you experience God in living out your spiritual gifts!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Submission

(Julie Davis)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

This is not the final word on submission. Consider it as one snapshot among a photo album of perspectives.

I love reading about the life of David--both before and after he was king of Israel. For much of the last half of the book of 1 Samuel, a jealous King Saul is pursuing David trying to kill him before he can be made king of Israel. David has been honorable in his dealings with Saul; he doesn’t “deserve” to be running for his life, hiding in cave after cave as he tries to escape Saul and his men.

In 1 Samuel 24, David and his men are hiding in the back of a cave when Saul enters, unaware that anyone else is there. David’s friends encourage him that this is the moment that “the Lord” has provided for him to strike down his enemy. But after only cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe, David is conscience-stricken. “The LORD forbid that I should . . . lift my hand against him,” David reflected, “for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 1 Samuel 24:5-6

Time passes and again David has a unique opportunity to end his life as a fugitive by killing Saul. But David again resists the ideas of his own men and even more strongly states his position: “Don’t destroy him! . . . The LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.” 1 Samuel 26:9-11

David had a good reason to kill Saul. David had been just toward Saul and his family, and Saul was trying to kill him! David had a good opportunity to teach Saul a lesson--two good opportunities, actually! David had the power to end the suffering he had been enduring for a long time. And through the prophet Samuel, God had promised David that Saul’s throne would someday be his.

But David also had a heart that was tender toward the Lord and a conscience that was sensitive to God’s guidance. And David knew God had both chosen Saul and extended authority to him as king. Though it caused David additional hardship and pain--and even though Saul’s actions against David were wrong--David submitted to the Spirit of God and the earthly authority put over him, and spared the life of his king.

Perhaps you have a good reason to do things your own way. Maybe you’ve been treated unjustly and the perfect opportunity arrives to turn the tables. How will you use the personal power at your disposal? God, give us hearts that are tender toward your Spirit, and help us make choices in our relationships out of our love for Christ. Share your thoughts with us, here, at the blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Service - Pay It Backward

Donna Huber sent this link to the December 13, 2007 edition of “Our Daily Bread” to jumpstart our conversation on serving other people. Write us at the blog about your random acts of kindness!

READ: Luke 6:27-36 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? — Luke 6:33

Would you pay the bill for the people in the car behind you at a fast-food drive-thru—even if you didn’t know them? That was the challenge given by a local Christian radio station to change their community. It was called “The Drive-Thru Difference.” The goal was to do a Christ-like act of kindness for people who didn’t expect it and to leave a note saying you did it because of your love for Christ.

Why do this? Why spend money for someone else’s food—especially someone we don’t know and who may be hostile to the faith? Why give without any hope of return? It sounds countercultural, but the idea has strong biblical basis.

Notice what Jesus said as He addressed a large crowd: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:32-33). Clearly, Jesus wants us to do good to people who can in no way pay us back.

Whether we’re paying someone’s bill at Taco Bell or dropping change into the Salvation Army kettle, our concern should be selfless giving—whether we get credit for it or not. In Jesus’ name, who can you bless today? The motive of giving reveals the character of the giver more than the gift itself.

Written by Dave Branon. Used by permission. Copyright 2007 RCB Ministries.

Service

(Celine Aiken)

“Let the little children come to Me...anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." (Mark 10:13–16)

Teaching Sunday school for almost 15 years, to kindergarten children at Trinity, is such a blessing and an important tool for me to stay connected to God.

As I prepare my lesson for the class each week, I usually read the entire adult information and Scriptures to be sure that I have the whole context of the teaching. Then comes the best part of all, the preparation process. I see how the author of the book and I can bring the message to the children on their level. As I read through the material and select the parts that will work best with the time frame I have, I am so moved in my Spirit of how simple God's Word really is. It is not complicated or confusing. He wants us to know, love and serve Him and He makes it very basic, complete and full of truth.

One example is the lesson Paul Explains Christians’ Relationship With Christ. The Scripture is from Ephesians 1:15-2:10. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) The simple way to say and teach this lesson is, only God’s power saves us. That God’s grace is a gift, we don’t work for it or be proud of ourselves for being saved.

I praise God for the privilege and honor to be a Sunday school teacher because it keeps me in the Word of God and helps me not only to be connected to Him, but to be reminded that He is “simply” a Father who loves His children.

May you too experience the simplicity of God’s love for you in your daily walk with Him. How do your acts of service keep you connected with God? How is God prompting you to serve today? Write us here at the blog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Worship

(Lisa Hnath)

Worship, as I have read at various places in Scripture, is the heart in open adoration of the Lord. For instance, when the wise men came to see baby Jesus, they came for the purpose of giving Him worship. They came and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh and then bowed down and worshipped Jesus. Why did they do this? They recognized that the One to whom the star in the east was leading them, was divine. By their studies, knowledge and wisdom, and their hearts, eager to find the true God, they understood the greatness of the star that shone in the night sky: It would lead them to the King, the great One. They worshipped Jesus, because of who He was--even as a child.

Because of the greatness of God, He deserves our worship continually. And because of His jealous and everlasting love toward us, He wants our worship—every day!

For worship to have value it must be from the heart. In other words, it must be without coercion or manipulation. It must be given freely, by desire, not obligation. It is one person’s heart, unguarded, open and abandoned to the Lord, the only true God, and only One deserving and worthy of such adoration.

Worship can be a dangerous thing. How? Lucifer worshipped God. He was one of the three archangels. However, the glory of God went to his head. Rather than adoring God, he wanted to steal God’s glory--he wanted it for himself! And we can easily do the same.

When we open ourselves, in worship, to the Lord, at least two things happen, simultaneously: We find our proper orientation to God, for He is awesome and the only one capable of filling His shoes! We are in proper alignment with our creator and Savior. And it’s a relief--it’s a heavy load, trying to be what only God is. But an additional benefit is we get more of Him!

When our heart's attitude is to worship the Living God, then all aspects of our lives, under the Holy Spirit’s control, become acts of worship. Work, play, and the everyday events of life become a continuation of our worship to God. So, the workplace, school, even work in the yard become times of meditation and grace.

My feeling is worship should be personal. You should feel you can come before your Creator with freedom and acceptance. David danced before the Lord, with all his might. He was showing his love to God. He wanted to do something to express his love. We, too, should take time each day to show the Lord our love. As we abandon ourselves to Him, we will gain more and more of His love. Psalm 45 tells us to worship Him because He is our lord. How awesome it is to be in a love relationship with God Almighty.

My understanding of corporate worship is that it is worshippers--followers of Christ--sharing the passion of their hearts--Jesus Christ. To the extent that the Holy Spirit controls each of us, we are united in spirit.

What do you think? Write us at the blog--only through June 15, 2008!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Surrendered to God - Guidance

(Dave DeVries)

Jesus sent the Counselor to be with us (John 16:7). God’s Spirit testifies with our spirit, God’s spirit leads us, teaches us and guides us. Recognizing the voice of God through God’s Spirit comes with surrender and desire.

What did you hear at this morning’s service? In the sermon? Tell us, here, at the blog.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More on Meditation

(Lisa Hnath)

Meditating in the Word, continually, is absolutely vital to a healthy, thriving life. Psalm, chapter one, explains:

“Blessed is the man [person] who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates, day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Three points:

  1. The wrong way.
  2. The right way.
  3. The benefits of the right way.

The wrong way—Up front, we are told what NOT to do. The wrong way is progressive: Walk; stand; sit. First, you follow wrong (ungodly) thinking. This leads to hanging out with people who share ungodly values. And this leads to the ungodly attitude of scorn—looking down on others; mocking others; mocking God. This life is a dead end.

Instead of following the wrong way, is the right way. In place of pursuing ungodliness, this person is enquiring about God. They are actively, consistently, daily, continually looking into God’s word. They meditate in the Word, daily. The Bible is their source—and becomes their delight.

In my own life, I have found writing, teaching and sharing Christ, each to be a way to delve into the Scriptures more deeply. Writing is like a pick ax. You enter the gold mine of Scripture and the tool of writing helps unearth the golden nuggets of truth. Teaching is a great way to learn the word! (If you want to learn something, teach.) And sharing your faith with others draws on the resources of verses that you have hidden in your heart. As you share, God gives you wisdom and insight into the passage you are sharing.

What are the benefits of feasting on God’s word every morning and night? Priceless. The Word of God is like irrigation to a tree. It is the life source. It is the necessary supply for the tree to flourish. Because this person continues in the word, their supply is endless; perpetual. It is a continual spring of life. Since this life is well watered and supplied, it is fruitful. And this pleases God, as He desires that we bear much fruit. Also, the person who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. So, his life is not barren—brown and dried up, but lush, green, vibrant! All that he does prospers!

Write us your experiences and thoughts at this blog!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Guidance

    During our discussion of patterns that connect us to God, I hear the phrases “listen to God” Matthew 17:5 and “keep in step with God’s Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 How do we know for sure that the voice we are hearing is God’s voice? How do we know if we are keeping in step with God’s spirit?

    Cheryl Lacy suggests the following answer:

    1 John 4:1 says: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How do we do this?

    1 John 4:2-6 says:

    2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
    What are some of the false messages that come from the world? Can you offer what God’s word says about that message? Write us, here, at the blog!

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    Worshipping Together

      (Clifton Davis)

      Would you invest your energy in prayer for the times we worship together?

      If, as individuals, we are building patterns of connection to God through the spiritual disciplines, then we have an expectation that God speaks to us regularly. We are learning a perpetual openness to the Holy Spirit teaching us moment by moment. This “practicing the presence of God” can overflow when we come together at prayer meetings, or Sunday mornings, or small group meetings.

      What would it be like if a group of us expected God to speak to us on Sunday mornings as well? Would our holy expectancy change what happens for others in the room? Could people who enter bothered and rushed begin to be still and know the Lord is God? (Psalm 46:10)

      I would be interested in several of us conducting the experiment that Richard Foster suggests in his book “Celebration of Discipline:”

      Live throughout the week as an heir of the kingdom, listening for God’s voice, obeying God’s word. Since you have heard God’s voice throughout the week, you know that you will hear God’s voice as you gather for public worship. Enter the service ten minutes early. Lift your heart in adoration to the King of glory. Contemplate God’s majesty, glory and tenderness as revealed in Jesus Christ. Picture the marvelous vision that Isaiah had of the Lord “high and lifted up” of the magnificent revelation that John had of Christ with eyes “like a flame of fire” and a voice “Like the sound of many waters” (Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1). Invite the real Presence to be manifest.

      Next, lift into the light of Christ the pastor and other worship leaders. Picture the Shekinah (immediate Presence of God, not a God who is far off) of God’s radiance surrounding them. Inwardly release them to speak the truth boldly in the power of the Lord.

      When people begin to enter the room, glance around until you see someone who needs your intercessory work. Perhaps their shoulders are drooped, or they seem a bit sad. Lift them into the glorious, refreshing light of God’s Presence. See the burden tumbling from their shoulders as it did from Pilgrim’s in Bunyan’s allegory
      The Pilgrim's Progress.

      [Or, click here for a free, downloadable, digital e-Book copy of The Pligrim's Progress.]


      Hold them as in a special intention [prayerfully remember them] throughout the service.
      Feel free to join people at the communion window at Trinity before each service to pray for that service. Feel free to pray with people after each service at Trinity by the pulpit.

      Let us know, here, at the blog how it goes in worship on Sunday!

      Wednesday, June 4, 2008

      A Lifestyle of Worship

        If we are seeking to find patterns that connect us with God, if we are building spiritual disciplines into our lives, then learning the habit of checking in with God all the time is the compass that guides the other disciplines. It is the foundation of a lifestyle of worship.

        A year ago, some of us read Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. How interesting that words written over 300 years ago in French could impact a bunch of people in Connecticut! Brother Lawrence suggests that “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen…I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees.” How did work not differ from worship for Brother Lawrence? By continually entering into a conversation with God.

        I believe this is the path to living out Paul’s command in Romans 12:1-2.

        Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
        What is this spiritual act of worship, or living sacrifice? Offering our bodies and being transformed by the renewing of our minds. How did Brother Lawrence suggest we renew our minds? By first applying some diligence, but that after a little care we should find God’s love inwardly exciting us to it without any difficulty. Is this your experience--building a pattern of checking in with God leads to a relationship with God where it is natural to talk continuously with your Friend?

        I found great freedom from Brother Lawrence’s confession that when he failed in this he only confessed his fault, saying to God, I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss. Then Brother Lawrence gave himself no further uneasiness about it. What a great model for us! When through the course of a day we realize we have not checked in with God for a while, we don’t beat ourselves up for it, but confess and then ask for God’s help to keep the conversation going.

        If I want to be a living sacrifice--to have a spiritual act of worship--then spiritual disciplines guide my choices. Practicing the presence of God, the habit of choosing over and over again to re-engage in talking with God, guides a lifestyle of worship. Why don’t you try checking in with God many times today?

        Please comment here, at the blog, with what you experience.

          Tuesday, June 3, 2008

          Celebration

            (Clif Davis)

            John Ortberg, in his book "The Life You’ve Always Wanted," talks about the practice of celebration. When I first read this book I was astounded by this chapter. How often had I equated discipline with punishment, becoming like Christ with painful work, and the Christian life with drudgery. This is not what God intends for us! We can practice finding joy. We can be disciplined to choose delight in God’s goodness over the drudgery of self.

            The Old Testament is full of feast days to help us interrupt our busy lives to taste and see that the Lord is Good! Our singing, eating and dancing with people we love can focus on the great God who gave these wonderful gifts to us.

            Children often celebrate the simplest details. My two year old can be ecstatic to just get his shoes on the correct feet! Sometimes he will even take them off just to do it again!! So when Jesus tells us to become like children in order to see the kingdom of heaven Matthew 18:3, could it be that child-like joy is the key?

            G. K. Chesterton, a Christian writer and apologist, explains about child-like joy in his book “Orthodoxy:”

            Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

            What will you celebrate today? A God that is always giving us gifts? Or will your celebration be limited by a grasping for personal gratification? As John Ortberg put it “Personal gratification always follows the law of diminishing returns, so that what produce joy in us yesterday no longer does today… Celebration is not like that. When we celebrate, we exercise our ability to see and feel goodness in the simplest gifts of God. We are able to take delight today in something we wouldn’t have even noticed yesterday. Our capacity for joy increases.”

            Write us here, "at the blog," and tell us about where you found joy in God today.… Where did you see God say “Do it again!”

            Monday, June 2, 2008

            Worship - Music & Singing

              (Donna Huber)

              What kind of week are you having? What does your next week look like? When you wake up on Sunday, does the week you previously experienced have your strength sapped? I know there are times when Sunday morning rolls around that I think it would be so nice just to lie in bed and relax. The world tells me that I had a really tiring week and lying in bed and relaxing a couple of hours is well deserved. After all, who would miss me in church? But there is something nudging me out of bed and I get myself to Trinity.

              On my short drive, I think about all the things I need to do before Monday rolls around again. So much for Sunday being my day of rest! But I walk into church, quiet my heart and something happens--the worship begins, the music of praise talks to my heart and the voices singing helps me to forget the three most important people I left at home--me, myself, and I. It doesn’t matter what type of music it is, the focus becomes on God. What a great blessing!

              Psalm 81:1-2 (NIV) says: "Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre."

              A commentary in The Handbook of Bible Application says*: "Worship and music go hand in hand. David instituted music for the temple worship services (1 Chronicles 25:1). Worship should involve the whole person, and music helps lift a person’s thoughts and emotions to God.”

              So go ahead, sing to the Lord. It will release your celebration and worship!





              *Barton, Bruce B., Beers, Ronald A., Glavin, James C., Taylor, Linda Chaffee, Veerman, David R., Copyright 1992. The Handbook of Bible Application. IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

              Sunday, June 1, 2008

              Confession - Sermon

              Dave DeVries writes:

              “Put off your old self” scripture repeatedly urges. We have to know ourselves before we can put off our old self. When confession becomes specific and a discipline we practice, transformation happens.

              What did you learn from the sermon? Post your questions and comments, here, at the blog.

              Saturday, May 31, 2008

              Confession (day two)

              James 5:16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Does the Bible really mean that we should let our real self be known to another person—even the crud and mistakes and sin?

              Secrets can hold a lot of power, but through confession that power can be broken. Please be wise in choosing a real person to whom you confess your sins. Please keep in step with God’s Spirit and take the risk with the right person.

              Looking for a first step? Try using this on-line confession that includes scripture to help you walk through confessing sin:

              The Confessor (http://www.theconfessor.co.uk)

              A next step could be keeping a journal that tracks your comments to God and your impressions of God’s responses. The journal could have much more than only confession written inside. But taking the time each day to jot down where you are can be a beneficial pattern to help connect you with God.

              Another step could be finding an accountability partner for a limited or extended time. This helps us move beyond being known only to cyber-people. Instead of feeding the idea that we're being "known" when really we're still being anonymous, we choose to risk with a real person. Julie Davis writes that “confessing to a person who can see you and respond to you--although difficult--will generally bring real healing and release from bondage.”

              What do you think the Bible teaches? How have you acted out the truth of James 5:16? Write us, here, at the blog.

              Friday, May 30, 2008

              Confession (day one)

                One of the patterns that help people connect with God is the confession of sin. First John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

                What does confession really need to include to truly be a confession? Here are CJ Mahaney’s thoughts from his blog dated February 22, 2008 (See Sovereign Grace Blog for a full list of subjects) :

                Andy Pettitte and My Confession of Sin
                by C.J. Mahaney
                2/22/2008 10:53:00 AM

                CoolOver the past few years, sports fans have endured a steady diet of news about high-profile athletes who have been busted for using steroids. Though steroid use is not limited to baseball, most recently professional baseball has been the focus of criticism due to the Mitchell Report and the recent hearings on Capitol Hill.

                As I’ve listened in, read the sports pages, and watched part of the hearings, I’ve listened carefully to the way athletes articulate their words. Sadly, as I listen to these confessions of drug use, I see no discernable difference between the professing Christian and the non-Christian athletes. Specifically, this has been obvious in the recent round of charges against and admissions by Andy Pettitte.

                Andy Pettitte


                If you’ve followed major league baseball, you know pitcher Andy Pettitte was identified in the Mitchell Report and later acknowledged using human growth hormones (HGH), a substance banned by the league.

                Sadly, though he has publicly admitted using HGH, Pettitte (a professing Christian) did not get off to a good start. His first public statement (Dec. 15, 2007) included some “if” statements like “If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize.” I don’t really even know what this sentence means. But I do know that confessions including the word “if” quickly move away from a truly biblical confession.

                Monday at a press conference from spring training, Andy Pettitte was asked by a reporter, “Considering it [HGH] is illegal, do you consider yourself a cheater?” Pettitte responded by saying,
                From the bottom of my heart, I know why I did this. I didn’t do it to try to get an edge on anyone, I didn’t do it to try to get stronger, faster or to throw harder. I did it because I was told that it might be able to help me. That’s for other people to decide. If people think I’m lying then they should call me a cheater. Do I think I’m a cheater? I don’t. God knows my heart.
                As I watched Pettitte, I noted how high-profile Christian athletes miss opportunities to present culture with a compelling alternative: someone who has been genuinely convicted of sin and confesses those specific sins. Instead, the norm for these athletes (who are professing Christians) is to conform to the evasive language so common when someone has been caught.

                Reading these explicit references to God, I find it difficult to reconcile Pettitte’s statements with Scripture. He is a professing Christian, yet when it comes to his admitted use of HGH, we hear posturing and ambiguous language. And you see this throughout the process. The Mitchell Report named Pettitte, and Pettitte acknowledged the accuracy of the Report in regards to a personal use of HGH, but withheld specifics about his uses on other occasions. Then Pettitte later revealed more specifics about his use, when deposed by the congressional committee. And though he has (and only after he was caught) admitted to multiple uses of the drug, Pettitte refuses to see himself as a cheater.

                Now Pettitte is claiming that his motives were pure, attempting to justify the steroid use by a desire to recover sooner from an injury. With this statement Pettitte presents himself as though what he did was admirable. He says he did it for the team. Please, does he think we’re all fools?

                Tuesday morning I jogged on the treadmill while watching ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. After clips from the Pettitte press conference on Monday, attention turned back to Mike and Mike. One of them, former professional football player Mike Golic, acknowledged that in 1987 he took steroids for five weeks to accelerate the healing process of shoulder surgery. After ridiculing Pettitte for using his faith in God, Christian beliefs, and personal feelings as justification for his actions, Golic went on to say, “I did it [steroids] for the same reason [as Pettitte]. But when I admitted that I did it, I never tried to come across as though I didn’t cheat. I did. It was wrong.”

                Golic clearly acknowledged cheating. He did. And it’s disappointing to me that a guy who is (to my knowledge) not a Christian acknowledged he cheated and can easily discern the weaknesses of Pettitte’s “confession.”

                As I watched the Pettitte press conference, I didn’t question the sincerity of his profession of faith. What I am questioning is his understanding of Scripture (specifically ethics as taught in Scripture). I wonder if he has a pastor. I wonder if he’s a part of a local church. I wonder if the Yankees have a chaplain who is a true pastor. Because I think Pettitte needs a pastor or chaplain who can meet with him to walk back through his confession and examine his heart in light of the holiness of God, the doctrine of sin, and (most importantly) the gospel.

                It was disappointing because Andy Pettitte missed his moment. He had a moment where he could have articulated a clear confession that was theologically informed. Sadly, he didn’t, but others have; you just may not have heard of them. Meet Daniel Naulty.


                Daniel Naulty

                The now infamous Mitchell Report on steroid use in major league baseball pointed a finger at high-profile players like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, and Gary Sheffield.

                Long before the Mitchell Report was released, a lesser-known pitcher named Daniel Naulty was caught using steroids. Naulty pitched for the Twins (1996–98) and Yankees (1999), which put him in contact with a number of players later named in the Mitchell Report. Naulty not only is a professing Christian, but is now pursuing a Ph.D in theology with the hopes of one day becoming a seminary professor.

                Naulty has repeatedly confessed publicly his use of steroids. He told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune,
                I stole people’s jobs. That’s the part for me that was so wrong. I have to explain to my boys that I took people’s jobs by cheating, and that penetrated my soul a number of years ago and still haunts me today.
                And in reflecting on all the players behind the scenes he influenced to use steroids, he told USA Today,
                I want to apologize to as many [fellow players] as I can. If they forgive me, great. But I need to be prepared to be declined and I’d understand if they didn’t. I took a piece of their life away from them that I could never give back. You reap what you sow and I might very well reap a lot of what I sowed.
                Let me tell you what he won’t reap. He won’t reap a perjury charge or a seared conscience or the ridicule of a world that easily discerns someone who is lying. And he will reap the love and respect of his sons.

                Naulty embraced his moment to speak and he spoke clearly, specifically, and humbly. Pettitte missed his moment.

                Now, what about your moment of confession? Your moment is coming, and so is mine. And this is what concerns me the most—that I will miss my moment.


                My Confession of Sin

                Though I’m seeking to grow in godliness (by God’s grace), I know indwelling sin remains, and that means I will sin against my wife, son, or friends at some point this week. I am the worst sinner I know, not Andy Pettitte. I am more familiar with my sin than I am with his sin. And I have my own moment fast approaching when I will need to acknowledge my sin.

                Obviously I am not a high-profile athlete, and my words are not being recorded and evaluated by the press. But my words are being evaluated by God (
                Matthew 12:36). And at times, I am sorry to say, my confession can be all too Pettitte-like.

                When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required. A confession that is sincere and pleasing to God will be specific and brief. I have learned to be suspicious of my confession if it’s general and lengthy. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.

                If my so-called confession extends beyond a very specific (acknowledgement of sin) sentence or two, then I am most likely excusing my sin, and requesting understanding for my sin, rather than sincerely asking forgiveness because of my sin. So I have learned to be suspicious of any confession of sin that is lengthy. Genuine conviction of sin is evidenced by a sincere, specific, and brief confession of sin, without any reference to circumstances or the participation of anyone else. When I sin, I am responsible for my sin, and the cause of my sin is always within my heart and never lies outside my heart.

                Often after I sin, and even after I confess my sin—most importantly to God to receive the forgiveness I need from him for my sin through the death of his Son for my many sins—I experience a conflict in my soul about the confessing, when necessary, to the appropriate individuals. And whenever there is this conflict in my soul about specifically confessing my sin, I am aware that pride is actively at work in my soul, opposing the confession and seeking to persuade me that it wouldn’t be wise or even necessary for me to confess. But I have learned to ignore this noise from my arrogant heart, and instead weaken this noise by specifically confessing my sin to the appropriate individual as quickly as possible.

                When I do confess, first and foremost to God and then (where and when appropriate) to others, I want my confession to be sincere and specific. I want my confession to express genuine sorrow and gratefulness to God for the mercy I experience because of the substitutionary sacrifice of his Son for my sins on the cross.

                And when I confess my sin to others and ask their forgiveness when I have sinned against them, I don’t want my confession to resemble the press conference of a high-profile athlete, characterized by evasive language and the refusal to be specific. Instead, I hope my confession of sin is the sincere and specific confession of one genuinely convicted of his sin, sorrowful about his sin, and amazed at the grace of God provided for the forgiveness of sin.


                What do you think of CJ’s comments? What can you add to the discussion? Write us, here, at the blog.

                Thursday, May 29, 2008

                Fasting (part two)

                  (Guidelines for Fasting)

                  A great place to start is to develop your convictions directly from studying what the Bible has to teach about fasting. Type in “fast” in the search engine at www.biblegateway.com as a first step. You can read about the three-day fast that Esther did. You can learn about that the fast on the Day of Atonement was from sunset of one day to sunset of the next (Leviticus 16:29; 23:32). What about Jesus fasting 40 days! As you seek to keep in step with the Spirit, here are some guidelines that may help you.


                  Beginning the Fast.

                  If you have never fasted before, feel free to skip a meal or two. Over time, you can build up to a day or more. Don’t start with a three-day fast! If it is your first time, don’t eat solid food, but continue to drink clear liquids (broth or fruit juice), particularly water. If you are building a habit of fasting, skip all liquids but water. All fasts should avoid soda and caffeine.


                  Keep hydrated!

                  Six to eight glasses a day is not too much! You may experience some headaches and dizziness at the beginning. Water can help relieve headaches and hunger. But if the Holy Spirit (perhaps through your medical doctor!) suggests drinking clear liquids, that can still be a fast. See Daniel and others for whom fasting was abstaining from certain foods or drinking only certain liquids. (Daniel 1:15 and 10:3)


                  Be proactive.

                  Replace your meal times with time with God through prayer and reading the Bible. Many start with a time of asking the Spirit to reveal sin in their lives and then asking for God’s forgiveness. Is there a list of areas of your life to talk to God about? People that need prayer? Use what would usually be meal times to focus on God.


                  Breaking the fast.

                  Often people end the fast with a small glass of fruit juice so their body’s digestive and elimination systems can gently restart. Then add in small amounts of food a body can easily digest (soup, yogurt, fresh fruit, cooked vegetables, a well baked yam or sweet potato).


                  Rev. Donald Bryan (in his "Fasting Digest) says:
                  Don't feel condemned about whatever degree of fasting you are able to pursue. Better a partial fast than no fast at all as long as you see the true purpose of the fast and seek to crucify the flesh and seek the spirit through prayer and re-dedication.... You are not fasting to prove you can "make it." You are fasting to give yourself time to pursue the Spirit. Do what you can do and let it be an experience you can build on. Anything you can do to increase the Spirit in your life is a step in the direction of victory.
                  God longs for us to love and enjoy God! Not eating food is one way to focus your desire to seek God first. Remember, when you fast, "your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:18)


                  IMPORTANT!

                  If you are under the care of a physician for any kind of disease, if you struggle with anorexia nervosa or bulimia, or if you are pregnant, do not begin a fast before you have the approval and supervision of your physician.


                  Write us here, at the blog, with your experiences, comments, and questions.

                  Wednesday, May 28, 2008

                  Fasting (part one)

                    (some of what the Bible says)

                    As we continue to think about patterns that connect us to God, let’s think about fasting.


                    Who fasts?

                  • Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-4)
                  • Believers fasted before making important decisions. (Acts 13:2 and 14:23)
                  • Paul (Acts 9:9), and those he wrote (1 Corinthians 7:5).
                  • David fasted (2 Samuel 12:16) as a sign of godly repentance.
                  • In fact, entire nations like Nineveh fasted to ask for God’s mercy (Jonah 3:5)....
                  • How about Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Darius (Daniel 6:18), Moses (Exodus 34:27-28), or Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:37)!


                    Definition please!

                    In the middle of the story of Esther, fasting is defined as not eating or drinking for a specific amount of time. (See Esther 4:16) So you may think that the lack of food is the main point. It is not! The point of fasting is seeking GOD!! Isaiah gives God’s promise that if we seek God with the right kind of fast (see Isaiah 58:6-8) when we call, the Lord will answer! (Isaiah 58:9)


                    Why fast?

                    Fasting does not earn forgiveness with God. Jesus’s work on the cross fully satisfies the penalty of each one of our sins. Instead “Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to yourself, that you are serious about your relationship with Him. Fasting helps you to gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.” (See Christian fasting - what does the Bible say?)


                    How do we avoid food and/or drink for a period of time?

                    The next blog entry will have more practical steps on taking a fast. But if the Holy Spirit prompts you to fast before then, a good first step is to allow each hunger pang to cause you to check in with God. “Lord, I feel hungry right now, help me know that only You really satisfy.” Perhaps the next stomach growl can remind you to humbly acknowledge your legitimate needs. Does your joy come from God, or food?


                    Jesus offers this advice:

                    16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18) Our fasting is not a show for others, but seeking the Father who sees in secret. We do not use any of the spiritual disciplines to manipulate God into acting. We seek the Giver (God) not a gift (answered prayer through fasting).


                    Going without food and/or drink for a limited amount of time is a spiritual discipline, explained in the Bible, and useful for seeking God.


                    IMPORTANT!!!

                    Be sure if you have diabetes or other limiting health issues that you ask for medical advice from your doctor before proceeding!


                    Please comment here about your understanding of fasting in the Bible.
                  • Tuesday, May 27, 2008

                    Listening To God

                    (Karen Butterfield)

                      What do you think of when you hear someone say God spoke to them or that they were led by the Holy Spirit to_________?

                      Most people’s reaction would be “what kind of nut case are you that you think you actually “hear” God speaking to you?”

                      Listening to God – doesn’t mean you actually “hear” an “audible” voice speaking to you as you go about your day, but by being open to His leading and being available.

                      God speaks to us through:
                      • His Word
                      • The Holy Spirit
                      • Prayer
                      • Circumstances
                      • People
                      • His Creation
                      When we “Abide” in Him we won’t read scripture purely for information, but rather for transformation in our lives!!! That’s when I find the more time I spend in the scriptures, the more God will reveal the truths within and I will be more in tune with His voice.

                      When my heart’s desire is to do the Lord’s will I find God is speaking to me to take a step of faith and follow the path he has laid out for me. He is asking me to be open to the leading/prompting of the Holy Spirit.

                      This may be His prompting me to give someone a call that He has laid on my heart. At other times I sense an urgency to lift someone up in prayer – right at that very moment. I may not know what the specific need is; I just know I am to pray. Often it involves being a good listener to those around me – and as I’m listening to them I’m also listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit so God can speak or work through me.

                      When I’m not “listening” or “choose” not to follow His leading – I’m forfeiting an opportunity to be the person God desires me to be in another person’s life.

                      Are you listening??? Write a comment here at the blog!

                      Monday, May 26, 2008

                      Confession

                      (Don Hay)

                      Confession—Not Another Softball
                      5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

                      8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
                      1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

                      If you're going to put me on a baseball field then you need to know that softballs are my favorite. Why? Because they're bigger, slower, and easier to hit. Softballs build my confidence. Throw me a softball and I look pretty good. Baseballs, though, are a whole other story. They're smaller, faster, and much harder to hit. Given the choice I'll choose a softball every time.

                      Calling ourselves Christian is similar. If given the choice between hitting softballs for God (easy, slow, and manageable) or hitting baseballs (fast, risky, and potentially dangerous) then I choose easy every time.

                      Confession is no softball which is exactly why I avoid it. You probably avoid it too. I don't mean just confessing to God. I'm talking about confessing your sins to another (James 5:16). Honestly, when was the last time you came to grips with a particular sin in your life—let alone confessed it to someone else? "My name is David and I've struggled with lust for the past 4 years and I need to confess it." Seriously? Who does that? Give me a familiar church song, a smile on everyone's face, and a worship service that finishes on time. Toss me a softball and I'll hit it every time.

                      When John wrote these verses in chapter one did he really mean that ignoring the sin in my life keeps me from knowing God? Did he really mean that every time I choose to live in the shadows of secret sin I am like a rat scurrying through the darkness in an ongoing effort to escape the light? Does Christ really see my refusal to confess my sin as a blatant rejection of Him?

                      It’s time to realize you've been a Christian long enough to graduate from softballs to baseballs. Still waiting for the first pitch? Start with confession. It might take some time to adjust to the light but trust me, you'll be glad you did.

                      Write your thoughts and feelings here!

                      Sunday, May 25, 2008

                      Prayer

                      (Dave DeVries)
                      Few people seem satisfied with their prayer life and those who are seem to talk to God as a friend or as a child to a father, rather than as a duty. What we pray about reveals what we depend on God for, and keeps us abiding in Him. What stays with you from the sermon? What is God calling you to do as an action step? Please post your comment here.

                      Saturday, May 24, 2008

                      Grace

                      (Jana Rahrig)

                      I’m choosing grace as a topic of discussion because it’s so controversial. I’ve only just begun my studies on the topic so I’m excited to read your thoughts on the subject as well.

                      God is the originator of all good things, including grace. His laws and decrees outline grace in the Old Testament but His Son becomes a living example of it in the New Testament. But, before I started to focus my mind on the topic of grace, I understood it to be something they had centuries ago; and not something we experience today. Grace is not often heard of today. In today’s world, the word grace is used to describe a dancer or a running gazelle, but not something you extend to another as an undeserved gift as described in the bible. According to the word grace’s usage in the Bible, throughout the New Testament, grace is extended as greeting and blessing to all. Examples of this include Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, Thessalonians, etc. – grace abounds! In Paul’s day, grace is used as interchangeably and commonly as Aloha is in Hawaii! But, now-a-days, how often do you greet people on the street with greetings of grace and blessings or a wish of grace and peace to a friend at a day’s end. Today, we fall from grace—we sing of Amazing Grace, but we never wish a greeting or salutation of grace to another. In today’s world, we don’t understand what that means.

                      When I first started studying grace more in depth, I tried to add the word into my daily speech patterns. I peppered my sentences with the word “grace,” e.g., “That cashier extended me grace, “ or “Grace and Blessings to you, my friend,” as a warm-wish or good-bye. The reactions I received in response were hilarious and disdainful. “Why, whatever do you mean,” offered one acquaintance. Another joshed, “I certainly don’t have grace and for the most part, neither do you!” But yet, the most precious of responses were the facial expressions I received when I extended a greeting of grace. They cringed at the word as if to mimic drinking poison or stubbing a toe. No, grace is not a common part of today’s culture. So, since we don’t use the word, we, for the most part, don’t really understand what it is. And if we don’t understand what it is, we’re either not accepting it’s properties when received as a gift nor are we gifting it to others. It’s almost a lost, fine art that has died out from generation to generation because it was not taught as part of our heritage or included as part of our traditions.

                      Also in today’s “Me-Society,” especially, in our American culture, it is more acceptable to be in it for ourselves—“Win at all Cost,” “No Pain, no Gain.” To show grace to another would involve humility and equality. And who needs humility and equality in a society that is all about “me.” We are very concerned foremost out about our rights, our comfort and our needs!

                      This is where you come in. What do you think? What does grace mean to you? Do you live a grace-filled life, freely extending it to others? Have you ever had grace withheld from you? What are your thoughts? I would like to discuss this with you. Just tell me, how do you feel about grace?

                      Friday, May 23, 2008

                      Prayer

                      (Scott R. Davis)

                      Visit Scott’s blog at:
                      Triumph - scottrdavis.blogspot.com

                      When I was reading Philip Yancey's book, Prayer, I came across John 15:7 about abiding in Christ: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you...." To help the reader more fully understand this, think of the space shuttle approaching the space station. There must be a perfect linking between the two crafts and a full seal has to be established for the two hatches to open. The same applies to God's heart in our heart.

                      To remain in Christ, we must be close to Him. We must trust what He has for us. And to have His words remain in us, we must memorize the scriptures as well. Very difficult to do as well. Yet, He ultimately knows what is best for us.

                      The essence of abiding is like being connected to the internet and having a strong signal coming through. When we are not tied down by sin, then our effect on God will be much greater. I have found that when I am focused on God through prayer, more can be done as a result.

                      In another passage of the prayer book, Yancey refers to Hebrews 11 where some men of faith did not attain to what they asked. Moses never got to go to the promised land; yet, he led his people close to it and left instructions for his successors on how to get there. And, Jesus did not get to heal everyone or even personally establish churches in his physical sense of mortars and brick. Yet, Jesus calls us to do what He did in creating churches in which people will create changed lives. In the scriptures, there is the verse of John 14:12: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father"

                      And, in our lives some of the answers to our prayers or the effects of our testimony may never be known to us. Yet, just as in a tapestry the very markings that were made will make a very beautiful pattern to be commented on. Let it be with our lives that they point to Jesus' work on the cross and in our lives as well. That we are connected so that we can build not just a space station but the Kingdom of God that is out of this world.

                      For if this is to happen, we need to spend and prepare time for prayer. It is not always easy to do this since we live in a culture with many distractions. Part of the goal for this sermon series is to have us as individuals to focus on God more and have him be relevant in our very lives.

                      The very best athletes spend many hours in conditioning to be the very best that they can be. We need to present ourselves with opportunities so that we can have the best quality time for the Lord. As God requires the best in the offering of our gifts, time is a big and valuable gift that we can give the Lord.

                      Do you have thoughts to share with Scott and others about prayer? Write them here!

                      Thursday, May 22, 2008

                      Specific Answers to Prayer

                      (Bob Loomis)

                      I have many experiences of answered prayer but this one happened to me when I was at a low point in my life and needed help.

                      I was divorced and living with my mother. I was a newly saved Christian so my prayer experience was limited. I needed to move from my mother’s house, but where? I asked God to help me in 2 ways. Show me a place I could move into and also make it so I don’t pay more than $400 a month which was what I could afford and still give God His tithe.

                      So I asked around and there was no place out in the area for that price. Then, one day soon after my boss said that one of the company owned houses (I work for Aquarion Water Co. and they have caretaker homes) was up for rent. An employee had moved out. It was in the Saugatuck area of Weston on the reservoir. So I went to look at it. It seemed perfect except it would cost me over $500 in rent. Also, because my daughter was still in school in Shelton, Ct it would mean I would have to drive all that way everyday, because I was involved with her after school activities. So I prayed about it. God told me that if I took that house I would be going against His wishes. I knew this because I felt uneasy about taking this house and I knew I could not give God his due. So reluctantly I decided not to take it and listen to God.

                      Well as soon as I did that, God, within 2 or 3 days, answered my prayer. My company was willing to let me rent a house that was not a caretaker house but a regular rental (at the time they were getting $1500/month from the tenant). My company further told me they would let me rent it for $390/month if I would also just watch the property for trespassers and illegal dumping. Of course I said yes. Then, I immediately got down on my knees and thanked God. The house is in Fairfield near the Blackrock Turnpike but in a wooded area. It is near the Hemlocks reservoir and you can see it from my house. I have a large barn on the property for storage and acres and acres of wooded space.

                      God wants to bless us. But He can’t bless us if we are not willing to seek Him with prayer.

                      Please leave a comment here about how God has answered your prayers, or questions you have about answered prayer.

                      Wednesday, May 21, 2008

                      Memorizing Scripture

                      (Len Evans)

                      [Len served as a youth pastor at Trinity in the past and currently is serving a church in Texas. Thanks Len for joining us today for the blog!]

                      Flossing is one of those things that we know we should do but most of us don't do it regularly, if at all. The benefits of flossing have been told to us since we were children. They invented mint floss to help with the flavor and the new "flossers" that make it easier to reach those spaces between our teeth to help us form a good habit and yet, most of Americans still don't floss. Twenty-eight percent of Americans say they floss daily, but actual sales of floss don't match that claim.

                      Is it because we doubt the experts?

                      No.

                      Is it because we don't know the truth?

                      No.

                      It's because we don't choose what is best for our dental health.

                      I believe memorizing scripture is the dental floss of the spiritual disciplines. We all know we should memorize God's word in one form or another. The righteous man is to meditate on God's law during the day and night. (Psalm 1) Hiding God's word in our heart helps us resist temptation. (Psalm 119:11, Matthew 4:1-10 target="_blank") We are told to write God's commands on our hearts. (Proverbs 7:1-3)

                      Sometimes God's will is hard to discern but in this area God's will is clear. It pleases God for his children to meditate on his word. Memorizing scripture marinates your mind with God's truth so you are more prepared to do his will. (Romans 12:1-2) We need to put our knowledge into action and not just soak up truth. (James 1:22)

                      Three keys for memorizing scripture:

                      1. Review
                      2. Review
                      3. Review

                      The Topical Memory System is a great place to start or you can write down your favorite verses on note cards. Keep them in front of you and read them in those spare moments during the day (red lights, waiting in line at the store, etc.) Before you know it, you'll have God's Word hidden in your heart.

                      If you prefer, you can do larger portions such as favorite chapters of the bible or even a small book, like Philippians. It's actually easier to do large chunks than random verses but we all need to have some basic verses in our mind so we will also be prepared to give the reason for our hope when people ask. (1 Peter 3:15)

                      Choose what is best for your spiritual health.

                      If you are motivated to begin and want more basic details read: How to Memorize Scripture.

                      Tuesday, May 20, 2008

                      Praying God’s Word

                      (Jan Hunt)

                      Twenty-five years ago, a wise elderly pastor instructed me on a method that he uses for prayer and Bible reading and it is always a blessing when I use it. He called it Praying God’s Word.
                      14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

                      15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
                      1 John 5:14-15(KJV).

                      Pick a section of scripture. This could be 2 verses, a paragraph or a whole chapter. It could be something new for just the day or a book of the Bible that you have been reading through in order.

                      You will read this section through 3 times. Pray before you begin that God will show you what he wants you to know from this section of His Word.

                      • The first time you read it through, is to get the general ideas.
                      • The second time you read it through with a pen in hand and underline any phrases that “jump out at you”. This is because the Holy Spirit is going to make the scripture come alive to each one of us in a different way. He will highlight things to meet us where we are in our lives today. Your underlined phrases will probably be different than mine.
                      • The third time you read through the section, pause on each underlined area and pray using the very words in the scripture passage for your prayer.
                      Use these words to pray for yourself or someone else that God may have put on your heart.

                      My example from Psalm 11:

                      1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

                      2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

                      3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
                      Psalms 1:1-3 (KJV emphasis added).

                      My prayer on God's Word:

                      Lord, help my children to understand who they associate with. Help them not to get counsel from ungodly people. Help them to not pick friends that walk in the way of sinners or are scornful. Help them and me to delight in your law (words) and teach me to meditate on them often. Thank you for the promise that if we do this whatever we shall do will prosper. Amen.
                      Please comment about your experiences with this!

                        Monday, May 19, 2008

                        Meditating on Scripture

                        (Clif Davis)

                        I have just started teaching music in a Suzuki school. Mr. Suzuki noticed that almost all children learn to speak their native language without an accent. He applied this immersion principle to music to help students become fluent in making music. I believe we can become "fluent" in living the life we have always wanted by practicing spiritual disciplines. Suzuki encourages musical fluency through mindful repetition of the basics. I believe the Bible wants our spiritual muscles strengthened through mindful repetition of the basics as well.

                        The Bible calls this meditation! God commanded Joshua "do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. " (Joshua 1:8) Paul tells us to "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16).

                        So how do you meditate on Scripture?
                        • Pick a location that works with the way God created you (Genesis 26:43). Jacob worked in the fields and meditated there…where can you regularly chew over God's ideas?
                        • Pick a Scripture....
                        • Ask God for help (James 1:5). The Holy Spirit is your personal tutor! (John 16:13)
                        • Involve your mind: Think over and over again (Philippians 4:8). Do you understand the point? If not, ask God to make the meaning clear....
                        • Involve your heart: How can God set your affections on things above? (Colossians 3:1-2) How does this Scripture help you love God more? Hate sin more? We need more than head knowledge, we need God's power to change how feel/believe and live....
                        • Memorize! (Psalm 119:11) Then God can draw your attention to God's Word even when you are driving, waiting at the doctor's office, in the middle of a jam....
                        • Have an attitude of respect for the author and delight in what God has to say (Psalm 119:16).
                        • Talk about scripture with others as one way of God influencing you (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
                        • Ask God if there is one particular truth for you today. Relate it to what you already know from God's Word. Ask God to relate it to real events in your life today.
                        Pick a passage (a psalm, John 15, a chapter of Proverbs) and experiment. Comment here and tell us how it is going! If you have some additions to the list above, let us know that too!

                        Sunday, May 18, 2008

                        Prayer

                        (Dave D)

                        Imagine God actually speaking with you every day! More than that, imagine learning to hear Him speak through Scripture. God's Word is living and His spirit guides us into His truth. What did you learn from today's sermon? What questions do you have about "Stop, Look and Listen?"

                        Saturday, May 17, 2008

                        Listening Prayer (part two)

                        (Brad Jersak)

                        Let’s spend some more time on Listening to God-- taking the time to pay attention to what God is saying to you. It will never contradict scripture, but sometimes it changes what you misunderstand about scripture. Listening takes time and intent. Here are some suggestions from Brad Jersak author of Tuning In to the God Who Speaks.
                          Tuning In…

                        1. Spend a few minutes today having a conversation with God. Make sure you listen as well as talk.
                        2. Ask God to highlight a verse that will nourish your soul today. Chew it over all day, maybe even writing it on an index card and carry with you.
                        3. Sing or listen to your favorite worship song and be open for God to speak to you through it.
                        4. Ask God to bring someone to your mind to pray for while you are waiting at the grocers, lying in bed, or sitting at a stoplight.
                        5. Ask God if you have grieved his heart in any way this week. Confess your sin and accept his forgiveness.
                        6. Ask God to show you how you pleased him this week. Thank him for making it possible.
                        7. Ask God to help you encourage someone this week with a specific word from the Lord.
                        Please comment on how you listen!

                        Friday, May 16, 2008

                        Listening Prayer (part one)

                        (Seth Barnes)

                        Some of our short term missionary team members once came back all excited about Listening Prayer. They went through the organization “Adventures in Missions” (www.adventures.org) and learned a lot from the daily practice of this discipline.

                        The idea is not complicated. Seth Barnes in his book “The Art of listening Prayer: Finding God’s Voice Amidst Life’s Noise” talks about it this way:

                        • When you are ready, quiet yourself and examine your heart. It’s often good to begin by reading Scripture. Ask the Lord to speak to you through it.
                        • Ask the Lord to protect you in Jesus’ name from deception.
                        • Ask God to speak clearly in a way that you can understand, and to confirm anything God shared with you in Scripture.
                        • Write down a question for prayer. Then pause. This is where you wait and listen. The Lord has much to say to you. The Lord may direct you to another passage of Scripture. The Lord may share a tender word. Whatever you feel the Lord may be saying to you, write it down.

                          Used by permission from “The Art of Listening Prayer” copyright 2004 by Praxis Press, Inc. Available at: Missions Resources.com - Daily Devotionals
                        Why don’t you take some time to try that today? Then, please comment about your experiences here.

                        Thursday, May 15, 2008

                        Simplicity: How do we focus on what matters?

                        (Carlye Hay)

                        The “simple” answer is by seeking after God’s kingdom. This is bigger than just doing what God’s called us to do. It’s more than trying to attain some picture or standard that we put in our minds. But what is God calling us to do? The first part of this journey toward simplicity is developing the boundaries that enable us to filter out the loud voices in our lives pulling us in too many directions, and instead listen to God’s still, small voice. To start each day by saying: “I am available, God. Move me in the direction that you would have me go.” Ask yourself each day: “How am I going to do life?” Not just what is God’s call for this specific task, but what is His call for the way I am to live my life?

                        Jesus lived and taught simplicity when He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21). Jesus isn’t just talking about moths and rust. His words reveal His passion for our hearts and whether we are wrapped up or set free? Whether we are earth bound and tied to the temporary or flying with Him above our worries?

                        Simplicity is turning away from the “clutter” of a life trying to keep up and instead pursuing Christ’s recipe for what matters most. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you. Make following God your first priority and everything else will fall into place. (Matt. 6:33).

                        Got comments on how you live this out? Questions about building simplicity into your life? Please comment....

                        Wednesday, May 14, 2008

                        Solitude

                        (from Skip Moen)

                        Today’s spiritual discipline is Solitude: Richard Foster writes “Solitude involves creating an open, empty space for God that undercuts all the false support systems we use to shore up our lives.” Does your space for God rest on balance or harmony? How peaceful is your solitude? Feel free to read this from the May 2 devotional from “At God’s Table” and then post a comment in response!

                        Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Matthew 5:9

                        Peacemakers – Did you know that the Greek word for “peacemaker” never occurs in Greek literature except in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint)? That tells us something important. The concept “peacemaker” is Hebrew, not Greek. In spite of all that you have heard about Christians making peace with others and with God, the idea does not come from the Greek world of the first century. It comes from a much more ancient world – the world of the Hebrew Bible. If you want to know what Jesus really said, you’ll have to look at the Hebrew idiom, rodfei shalom, “those who pursue peace.”

                        You might think, “What’s the big deal? It’s still about forgiveness and right relationship with God, isn’t it?” Well, not exactly. You see, the Greek idea of peace is based on the thought that war is the normal state of the world. For the Greeks, peace is the absence of conflict, a temporary reprieve between battles. That is probably the way what you look at peace with God – a halt to the war, a time of relief, in the middle of a battle. If that’s your idea of peace and peacemakers, then you are Greek. This Greek idea leads to pursuit of the balanced life, where all the conflicting elements are brought under control. Greek peace is that place where you no longer have to fight your way through all the competing entanglements of life. If you think of your life as a struggle to get everything balanced correctly, then you are Greek. You view life’s objective in terms of the absence of struggles.

                        The Hebrew idea of peace is quite different. For the Hebrew, peace is about harmony, not balance. Pursuing peace is about being in tune with God, not walking away from the fight. Since God is in a cosmic battle with evil, the Hebrew concept of peace does not pretend to be about escape from the war. Hebrew peace is fighting alongside God, in tune with His battle plan. Of course, Hebrew peace is also tied to shalom, the critical word for well-being. But this is not well-being in terms of balance. It’s not about getting everything under control so that there aren’t any disturbances in life. Shalom is about harmony, singing the same song that God sings, rejoicing with the angelic hosts in the chorus, “Holy, holy, holy.” Those who pursue peace (the peacemakers) seek spiritual wholeness and well-being, not necessarily an end to stress and disturbance. Peacemaking is the process of healing wounds, first between Man and God and secondly, but just as importantly, between men. Peace is the experience of harmony with God and with each other. It is not simply getting all of your life in order. In fact, life in this world cannot be balanced. That’s what it means to be in a fallen world. Things just never get completely under control. They are essentially broken. But that doesn’t change the Hebrew concept of peace.

                        The Greek goal is really a hopeless pipe dream. Your life will never be balanced. Something(s) will always be a little off center. But God’s plan is perfect harmony in the midst of a fallen world. In tune with God doesn’t mean no stress or struggle. It means heading in the right direction. It means centered living, not teeter-totter existence. If you pursue peace, then you are blessed. Keep going in God’s direction. Seek, and you will find, a symphony in the strife.

                        Copyright 2003-2008 © Skip Moen and AtGodsTable.com. All Rights Reserved. AtGodsTable.com

                        Tuesday, May 13, 2008

                        Silence

                        (Julie Davis)

                        Did you hear that?

                        Probably not.

                        Our ears and minds are full of the sounds of fancy ringtones. Kids asking questions about homework. A supervisor telling us we overspent the budget. The thunk of the soccer ball. “I need you to sign my permission slip.” Five-second snatches of reality shows . . . cooking shows . . . shopping shows . . . sports . . . newscasts that fly by as we flip through the channels.

                        Some of us want to hear that empty, quiet space up there for a while. One friend lamented to me recently that her life is now so void of personal space that she no longer has any “interior thought life,” as she called it. Many of us, though, are content to only give lip-service to the idea of having silence in our lives.

                        Why?

                        For a lot of us, having regular silence would require us to set boundaries--both those that limit what we will do for others, and those that limit what we will do for ourselves. Some of us fear silence because we don’t want to be alone with our own thoughts, or we fear what God might say to us if we were still enough to listen.

                        For some of us, though, silence has been used in the past as a weapon against us. Conflict with a parent, a sibling, or a spouse led to days or weeks or even years of “the silent treatment.” Perhaps we’ve suffered discrimination or humiliation, when someone who had the power to bring change chose to stay silent instead of speaking. Some of us have endured years of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse--trapped in our circumstances by our silence or the silence of others whom we asked for help.

                        Jesus has the power to redeem all things, though, so--regardless of your past experience with silence--the practice of silence can now be a tool that you can use to be mindful of the Lord, and the Lord can use to bless you. This discipline is NOT the “emptying of the mind” practiced by proponents of the New Age; instead, it is reflected by scriptures such as Psalm 131:2--”But I have stilled and quieted my soul.”

                        We can probably think of some “traditional” ways to practice silence: while meditating on a verse of Scripture, for instance, or while thinking a prayer. But, there are other ways to use silence as a tool toward spiritual growth. I can honor other people and their thoughts--particularly those who are not quick to speak--by choosing sometimes to keep all my fabulous ideas to myself for a while. I can choose to spend some time in silence as a memorial for unborn children who were aborted--who never had a chance to make a sound. I can choose a period of silence to be mindful about and in prayer for people whose voices are not valued by the governments and institutions that keep them oppressed. I can be silent as a way of remembering and praying for persecuted Christians whose voices are silenced when they speak for Christ.

                        I can _________________________.

                        How will you fill in the blank?

                        Monday, May 12, 2008

                        The Good News

                        Before we go too far in talking about Spiritual Disciplines (patterns that connect us to God), we need to talk about Christian Spirituality. Here is Donald S. Whitney’s take on it:

                        Know the Good News of Christian Spirituality: Not only have most people on the planet never heard the good news of Christian spirituality, I am doubtful whether even many churchgoers have heard it clearly presented. And some who have heard it thousands of times are tentative when asked about it.

                        Christian spirituality begins with one of the most important words in the Bible. That word is gospel, which is the English translation of the New Testament Greek word that literally means "good news." But as essential as the gospel is to Christianity, I have often encountered an embarrassing silence whenever I have asked church groups, "What is the gospel?"

                        Let me ask you. Suppose you were going to write the gospel in a paragraph or so and send it to a friend in an email or letter. Could you do it? Confidently? Why would it be "good news"?

                        One of the places where the Bible summarizes the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The heart of this passage tells us "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures" (verses 3-4). So the gospel that produces genuine Christian spirituality is that Jesus Christ died, taking the guilt of sinners and the wrath of God upon Himself, and was raised bodily from the dead to show that the Father accepted His death for others and removed their sins. Christ's substitutionary death for sinners is the measure of His love and His resurrection from the dead is the stunning confirmation that all He said and did is true.

                        This is good news—the best possible news—because it demonstrates, among so many other things, the willingness of the God we had sinned against countless times to draw us to Himself, to engage in an intimate relationship with us. It means that He has done in Christ what we couldn't have done for ourselves, opening the door for us to come in faith and to experience all the indescribable riches of fellowship with God, and thereby become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

                        Do you know—by experience—this good news?

                        Used by permission From Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003). Copyright © 2002, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.

                        Sunday, May 11, 2008

                        Solitude & Silence

                        (From the Desk of Dave DeVries)

                        The invitation from God to be still and know Him is easily lost in our addiction to noise, performance, and busyness. Solitude and silence are practices used by Christians to intentionally open themselves to the presence of God by giving God undivided attention. What sticks with you from the sermon? What questions do you have?

                        What is a Spiritual Disciplines Blog?

                        (from Clif Davis)

                        Welcome to an experiment!

                        At Trinity Baptist Church in Fairfield CT, from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day 2008, we are looking at building patterns in our lives that help us connect with God. Some people call these patterns “Spiritual Disciplines.” Here is an example of a pattern in my life--I don't plan and strategize how I am going to maintain my dental health. I just have a pattern of daily teeth-brushing that I don't even really think about. Teeth-brushing is not really a spiritual discipline! But, in my life, I can build patterns of service, and Bible study and other habits that help connect me with God. We hope this blog will help people build habits into their lives that the Holy Spirit can use to keep us abiding in Christ.

                        We need to remember that we do not earn God’s favor by doing certain things. The work of Jesus on the cross fully satisfied God the Father. But we can make choices that help us gain the life we’ve always wanted. Be encouraged! Galatians 5:25 says “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” What pattern will help you keep in step with the Spirit today? Please share your comments and questions at this blog through Father’s Day 2008.

                        Tuesday, May 6, 2008

                        Spiritual Disciplines Blog - Patterns & Practices

                        Life never settles down. Discipline is one of those things that looks great on paper. The idea of making progress—especially in the area of your relationship with God—is higly motivating. The trouble is, discipline is difficult. It involves struggle. And it never seems to fit naturally into our busy schedules.

                        We often find ourselves thinking, "When life settles down a bit, I'll..." But we should have learned by now that life never settles down. Whatever we want to accomplish, we must do it with life unsettled. In the same way, if we're ever going to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, we've got to do it when life is like it is now. (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: Study Guide, back cover, Donald S. Whitney, NavPress, (c) 1994).

                        This blog will examine the spiritual disciplines that can bring us closer to God.

                        What patterns and practices in your life connect you to God?