Sunday, June 15, 2008
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
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:
....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....
....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.
....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.
....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....
....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.
--------------------------How have you connected with God through serving the poor? Encourage us by writing to the blog.
Friday, June 13, 2008
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
“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
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.
“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, 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
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
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)
- The wrong way.
- The right way.
- 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
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
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.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.
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.
Let us know, here, at the blog how it goes in worship on Sunday!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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
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:”
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.”
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.
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
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
“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.