Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spiritual disciplines/ formation Pt. 2

May be you are a lot like me, in that I struggle at giving Jesus the time I need to become more like him? I mean real, devoted, honest, unobstructed time for me to pray, listen, read and meditate/ think on scripture? How do I make the most of this time? When I only give him part of my attention, or part of my focus, then I rarely get that much out of it. Do you struggle with getting everything you can out of scripture when you read it? Do you struggle with prayer time? May be you are asking yourself if this is really helping?

Yesterday was a really good day for me. I spent a ton of time in the morning praying through and meditating on Galatians 5:16- 26.

I want to take you through the different portions of this scripture... to show you how I used this passage of scripture as part of my spiritual disciplines to help mold me and make me more like Jesus. Here is the first part of the scripture: Galatians 5:16- 18.
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."

As you I read through the scripture, it got me to thinking about the ways that I try to gratify my own sinful nature... my sinful desires. It forced me to think and reflect on any sin that may be in my life. It helped me to realize that my own personal desires wants what is contrary to the Spirit. When doing this time of scripture meditation, we have to realize, understand and deal with the fact that we do have a sinful nature. Anytime that we want what is different than scripture... this is our sinful nature. Our sinful nature wants what is different than the Holy Spirit desires for us and it is a conflict that is inside all Christ followers. The battle between us doing right and the conflict between us doing wrong. I don't know about you, but I know the battle that I have at times whether it be as a husband, as a dad, as a pastor, as a human being been caught in this war between my own desires and the desires of the Holy Spirit living in me.

This type of internalized thinking about our sinful nature and desires shows how we are to take scripture and apply it to our own lives. If we try to get ourselves to think and believe that we do not have a sinful nature, then we are fooling and lying to ourselves. This excercise, forces us to filter our own lives through scripture and it may be hard... but we need to look at our own lives through the lens of a microscope [aka scripture] for us to see where we need to grow.

You see, by taking a scripture and unpacking it like this, this forces us to pray to God for revelation, it forces us to listen to God for Him to speak to us [whether through scripture or that small still voice]... it forces us to meditate and think about the scripture in the light [or darkness] of our own lives. Through these spiritual disciplines, it forms us and pushes us closer to Christ. It pushes us closer to understand that we need grace. It pushes us to become more like Jesus.

In my next part of this blog post, I am going to breakdown Galatians 5:19- 21.

Spiritual disciplines/ formation

Ok... I know this is later than I wanted, sorry.

I wanted to think this whole thing more. The idea of how we as Christ followers become more like Jesus. Typically this is called some thing like discipleship, spiritual formation, mentoring, etc. There are tons of different ways to become more like Jesus. I have had to learn how to become a self feeder. I personally had to find ways to feed myself spiritually and not depend or rely on a Sunday school class, a small group, a cell group or some other group to provide for me pathways to spiritual growth. Now don't get me wrong, I love these things... but I personally love them more from the fellowship aspect than I do the spiritual formation aspect. I do like taking say a topic like the fruits of the spirit and discussing it in the group setting... but personally I have gotten more from my own personal quiet time from my own personal study of the scripture, from my own personal time of meditation on God's Word.

If you have not read Richard Foster's book... Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth then you need to. He takes the time and unpacks the whole idea of and why spiritual disciplines are so important to all of us. This book has quickly become for me a staple in my own personally relationship with Jesus Christ. As being in full time ministry, my schedule at times can become crazy, way too fast. This book, has helped to show me new and exciting ways to spiritually feed myself... especially during times when I need it the most.

I personally find the use of spiritual disciplines, much more effective in my personal discipleship/ spiritual formation than any other small group or Sunday school class. But here is the kicker that I struggle with and may be you do as well... it takes time! I am not talking about some 5 minute prayer time that we just unload all of our daily burdens on God. I am talking about taking some serious time and intentionally spending that time focusing on God. It is time, where focusing on prayer... silence, listening for that small, still voice from God... and scripture meditation.

This has been a key reason why, I have become what some would call a heretic. I have come to realize through these avenues... that Jesus was a heretic of his time. He was revolutionary. He was different than the rest of the world.

I would challenge all of us to spend more time with God during the first 30 days of the new year. I would challenge all of us to get out bed early or to take some thing out of our schedule [i.e. TV, video games or dare I say Internet!] and spend at least an hour with a combination of prayer, silence before God, reading & meditating on scripture. In my next blog post today, I am going to go through Galatians 5:16- 26 for an example of how to do this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Re-Connecting with God

This morning I was really needing some connection time with just me and God. It has been a crazy busy weekend... stressful... a ton of reconnecting with friends that we have not seen in some time. I am an introvert and I need to get my quiet, alone time with God. I need to have time where I can reconnect with my Heavenly Father... with our Creator... with Abba... with Jehovah. Today was a good first step of reconnecting, not just going through my prayer & study time... but a real, honest time of reconnecting with God.

This got me to thinking about all the time we spend celebrating Christmas, I think some times are so busy celebrating Jesus' birth that we forget or neglect to connect, intimately with God during this time.

Over the next few days, I am going to take some time unpacking connecting with God. I am going to unpack spiritual disciplines... discipleship... even some on prayer... talk about some resources [online and in print] that people can use to connect with God.

This morning, I started using the online prayer book called The Missio Dei Breviary. It was really good for me... I like these type of prayer books. It helps me to have different prayers, teaches me to pray through scripture and more. These prayer books, typically will have morning and evening prayers. Some, like Phyllis Tickle's Divine Hours series has morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime prayers. The breivary has a month's worth of prayers and readings that you just repeat each month, whereas The Divine Hours is an entire series of books for the different seasons and holidays of the year. I have decided that I am going to purchase the The Missio Dei Breviary
for my entire family and that we as a family are going to start doing this each day. This will give my two middle school kids some focus in their personal quiet time and it will help them to incorporate prayers and scripture reading into their time with God.

In addition, the Vineyard Great Lakes website also has Phyllis Tickle's Divine Hours on their website and it updates itself with the time. Here is the link to where it is located on their website

Both of these resources are very good resources to learn various spiritual disciplines, like prayer, listening for God, meditation, scripture meditation and more. I would challenge all of you that are looking for more in your walk with Christ to research spiritual disciplines and to find new and refreshing ways to connect with God and to let the Holy Spirit speak into, guide and refresh your lives.

At church yesterday, they talked about taking the next thirty days to create habits that will help us to grow in holiness and righteousness. Hopefully, in the next week, you can find some new ways to connect with God that will ignite your relationship with Jesus and it takes you places this year that you could never imagine.

My next blog post is going to be how I prayed through Galatians 5:16- 26 today... my hope is that through this time of blogging, you will find some new ways to reignite and reconnect with Jesus.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sorry I haven't blogged lately

Sorry I haven't blogged lately. My family has moved back to central
Ohio from West Virginia, so needless to say I have been tired and busy.

I try to post tonight or certainly on Monday.

Thanks... Malcolm

Sent from my iPod Touch

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The importance of BEING and DOING Jesus... with Penn Teller

The last few days, I have blogging about the fact that there has to be more to this Christian life... Christmas... the way that we celebrate Christmas.

I can tell you a story of about how our actions open and close doors for us to be able to tell about Jesus. But actually, I saw this video the other day... and I have thought about it off and on. But here is a video that magician/ comedian, Penn Teller made about somebody that gave him a Bible.

Look at his reactions... how deeply he was touched, just because a Christian was honest, open... and it even sounds like this guy was BEING and DOING what Jesus would have done. Even though he has deep disagreements with Penn, he was respectful, honest and you can tell by Penn's emotions and the way he talks about this guy... he was deeply impacted.


Read through my blog from this week and think if we spend time BEING Jesus and DOING what Jesus did... then think about how it will open the doors for us to be able to share Jesus with those like Penn that are atheists and do believe in our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I will write more later about this video. I believe that this is a very rich video that we in the church can learn from. You can tell from Penn that living out our values... our beliefs is more important than our actual words.

Merry Christmas!

New Christmas Traditions?

Here it is Christmas Eve... as I look through my Twitter and Facebook friends, I see many of them talking about traditions, doing stockings this evening, going to church, etc. Some times, I wish my family had more traditions like that. This year, has been kind of crazy for our family with the Christmas season. As we are moving to Central Ohio on 12/26 & 27. So we are living out of boxes right now.

Anyways... traditions are a good thing. I was a Navy brat growing up and I remember, even if Dad was out to sea for Christmas, my mom had certain traditions that we did as well. Things like on Christmas morning, before we would open Christmas presents mom would make a HUGE platter of sausage biscuits for us to eat while opening our presents. Or my brother and I would get to open our stockings and the presents that we got each other [this was just a formality, we had already told each other what we got one another :-)]. Even to this day, my mom makes sausage biscuits if we are at their house! I really miss some of the traditions.

As I am sitting here this morning, I am wondering what are some new Christmas traditions that we need to start? What are some new Christmas traditions, that are completely radical that people would call you and your family heretics? What are some traditions that our churches do that need to be replaced with new traditions?

What about some things like adopting under-resourced families for Christmas... that attend our churches... BUT also never go to churches? How about including some of them in our own family traditions? How about starting a new Christmas tradition for our youth groups to go and do something extravagant for the homeless, for the elderly, for the poor, for those that are working on Christmas morning?

There has got to be more to this Christian life during the Christmas season. I mean family is important... celebrating the life of Jesus Christ is the most important... but are we celebrating the way Jesus would have? What new traditions do we need to start?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Say a prayer...

Most of the United States is gripped in severe cold and the wind chills are well below zero. Here in Bramwell this morning, the temperature was 5 degrees... with a wind chill of -18 degrees.

All over the U.S. temperatures are like that or pretty close to that.

Each night, there is about 125,000 people that are homeless. Many of them are children, families that cannot get into shelters because they are overcrowded and full. Please pray for any that may be outside in this bitterly cold weather.

I would challenge churches to open their doors and do what you can to help the homeless during this time.

Advent Conspiracy

There still has to be more to Christmas!

There has to be more to doing Christmas as usual... for us to be Jesus... that means we have to DO what Jesus would have done.  I am not talking about just wearing a little WWJD bracelet.  

I am talking about physically doing what it is that Jesus did.  If you look at Jesus' life... he was a living verb.  Jesus put actions to things he believed in.  For us... if we believe in Jesus... his radical Good News message, that God sent His only son to come to earth... to live out the Kingdom of God... to live out what Heaven is going to be like... they why does that not motivate us more?!  Why is it we measure how much we enjoy Christmas... by the number of Christmas trees we have in our house... or we measure how spiritual we are about Christmas... by the number of presents we give to family members that we have not seen all year and let's be honest, probably don't even like anyways.  

This whole message of Jesus... Him coming to earth... with the mission of bringing a piece of heaven to this God forsaken world... with the gift of dying for those that did not and does not deserve such a gift... and then he gives us the opportunity to bring heaven here by praying for the sick and to bring healing through us... for us to have the opportunity to do more than he did here on earth with the gift of the Holy Spirit... then I ask... why have we Americans reduced the message of Christmas down to what it is?  Is it time for us to repent?  Is it time for us to seek forgiveness for losing our first love?  I think we all know the answer... but will we?  

Jesus went to the hurting... went to sick... went to the poor.  In today's day and age... that means that we need to go to the elderly widow or widower that is lonely and not going to see their family... and be their family!  It means that we go and take Christmas presents to the single mom that can't afford them... and let her put her name on them to her kids... it is about us taking some of the hundreds [or thousands] of dollars that we spend... and use it to buy a poor family a cow someplace overseas... so they can make money by selling milk for their family to live on.  It means that instead of our big fancy meals... we go out and share those meals with some one who is alone... who is hurting.  

This is what Jesus would have done... these things are Good News... these things are pieces of heaven coming to earth.  What would the impact be... if we started to BE Jesus in our community... if we started to really DO what Jesus did... what is the impact that we can have on our communities?  On our families?  On our work?  On our schools?  Let's talk about that on Tuesday.  

Leave some comments, let's discuss this!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

There Has To Be More...

There are times over the last 8- 9 years where people have called me and my family scrooges.  During this time, we have always felt that there had to be more to Christmas than what we Americans think of Christmas as.  I mean, we as Americans, Christian and non-Christian... have focused Christmas on trees, presents, lights, blow up inflatables in the front yard and to us... this was the way to celebrate Christmas.  But for years... to me... Christmas is about so much more.  I mean, we Americans are pretty smart... most of the time.  But why have we allowed the idolatry of commercialism and consumerism creep into the time when the majority of Americans believe that it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?  

I say there has to be more!  I think the fact our Saviour would leave his Heavenly home and come here to be with us... is frankly... REVOLUTIONARY!  I think that it is the second most selfless act in the history of the world, only after the fact that Jesus would allow himself to be killed for our sins.  

Then what should we do for Christmas?  Ok... scrooge... you heretic... what should we be doing for Christmas?  

I have heard it said that the best way to remember somebody's birthday or their death is to live what they were about.  What was Jesus about?  What was our Saviour about?  

I mean Jesus was about taking the Good News to those that needed it the most.  Jesus was Good News to the poor, to the disadvantaged, to the hurting... Jesus was a heretic to the religious elite... to the legalistic he was despised... to those that were comfortable in their religion he made them uncomfortable.  He demanded more of his followers... without the legalism.  He came and turned the established church upside down on their ear.  

There has to be more to this Christmas thing each year... there has to be more to this Christian life... I mean Jesus said that he has come to give us life... and more, real life... an abundant life.  He did not say, he came to give us more stuff... more money... so what does this life look like?  I would argue that it is us living the Kingdom of God out in our daily lives... it is about us BEING Jesus this Christmas season to the family members we don't like... to the single mom down the street... to the neighbor kids that get on our nerves... I would say it is about us having mercy and compassion... and following Jesus' command to "go and do likewise"... it is about us as Christ followers going and remembering that the life of Jesus is about more than what we have reduced it down to?  

Watch for more on this for the next couple of days...  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get to church in morning

I want challenge all is to get to church this weekend! If you are
like me, life is crazy... Especially during the holidays.

Although the church is not a building... Join a group of believers
this weekend to worship and celebrate Jesus... To be encouraged... To
study the scriptures... And to connect with this great we serve!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Free audiobook of Tribes

At the end of the audiobook of Tribes, Seth Godin has asked that we giveaway this audiobook.  

Simply put, this book is AMAZING!  Don't think about this book, just as a secular work world leadership book... he talks almost as much to church leaders in this book as he does other corporate leaders and managers.  In this book, Seth Godin talks about the need for the leaders of today, to be heretics.  That we need to challenge the way things have been done forever.  

For so long, I have struggled at churches, in the work world because I don't like the status quo... especially when we could have been better.  I struggled really hard at times in ministry because at times, i was treated like a heretic because I challenged the status quo way of doing things.  When I saw that we as a church was not doing what the Bible called us to do by taking care of the poor, the disadvantaged... I was treated like a heretic.  I was treated like an alien from another planet. The pastor kept me at arms length, because he did not want his religious right wing buddies to think that he was turning liberal.  I am serious!  

I became such a pain about it.  I sent emails, talked about the poor in staff meetings, at times when I was leading communion & offering... so he decided to keep me at arms length... allowing me to have enough resources to say we are doing more. for.. or at least something for the poor... but it was not a priority to him.  Again, I was treated by him as a heretic.

Here is a link from where you can register and get the audiobook for free.  

Enjoy the book and become a part of the tribe here.  

Welcome to Christ following heretics...

Welcome to Christ following heretics...

This is a blog that is for those of us that are uncomfortable.

A blog that is really more of a tribe of Christ followers that are tired of the status- quo.

A tribe for those of that no longer wants the bride of Christ to be status- quo, but to be the beautiful, radiant, world changing church that Jesus wanted her to be!

This is a blog where we will talk about, think about and put into practice... our call to be a missional church. This is a tribe, where we will stand the church worldwide on it's ear. A tribe that wants to turn church leadership, upside down on it's ear... we want to challenge the status- quo of church leadership. We are going to be a tribe that challenges the religious right & left, challenges the church and it's social justice programs, it challenges the way we have always done church. Challenge it with scripture... combined with cultural relevancy that the church many times is missing.

This blog is going to make some of you mad. You will probably call us heretics. GOOD!

According to Seth Godin's book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us... that is exactly what we are. Guess what church... we are here, and it is time to listen and deal with us. It is time to dialogue and not just accept everything that we have been spoon fed for years. Now... is the time. Now is the time for this tribe of heretics to respectfully, honestly and passionately challenge the way things have always been done. Why? Why is it time to challenge these things? Because... quit spinning the numbers church leaders... the churches & denominations in the United States are losing ground. The church of the United States is irrelevant to today's culture and world.

So I ask you to start following this blog... join this tribe of heretics that want the Bride of Christ to become a beautiful, radiant bride that our Saviour deserves. Join us!