Sunday, December 28, 2014

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: I noticed right after Christmas that the newspaper ads were full of exercise machines on sale. I couldn't help but wonder if those weren't targeting those of us who ate too much over the holiday and/or were making New Year's resolutions about pursuing regular exercise in our lives. Paul wrote to Timothy about spiritual training in 1 Timothy 4:7, 8: "Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Many Christians have chosen to pursue spiritual disciplines . . . not to win God's approval, but, like physical exercise, to develop godly habits that will make us spiritually strong and better able to serve God. I can't remember who first suggested two categories of spiritual disciplines: engagement and denial, but I have found these to be very helpful IF, like physical exercise, I am faithful in practicing them. It's my plan in the New Year, to focus on one discipline each week and then repeat the sequence again. Repetitions in godly disciplines build spiritual muscles even as repetitions in physical workouts build physical muscles. Here's a description of 7 disciples of engagement and 6 disciplines of denial: Disciplines of Engagement (things I intentionally do) 1. Bible study – carefully examine the Scriptures every day not to gain information, but in order to become more like Jesus. 2. Prayer – communicate to God my adoration, thanks, confession, and requests for others and for self. 3. Community worship – gather weekly with my Christian family to praise, pray, serve, give, and learn. 4. Fellowship – regularly share life and resources with other believers. 5. Good works – do good things to relieve suffering and meet needs. 6. Giving/Generosity – be quick to share what God has given me to relieve suffering, meet needs, spread the Gospel, and build Jesus’ church. 7. Evangelism – eagerly take every opportunity to talk to others about Jesus and the Gospel Disciplines of Denial (things I intentionally do NOT do) 8. Fasting – give up food or some other regular activity for a time in order to prioritize serious prayer. 9. Solitude – separate myself from people and activities to be alone with God. 10. Silence – take time to be quiet before God in order to listen to Him and to be quiet with people so as to not say too much or the wrong thing (defensive, retaliatory, unkind, critical, condemning). 11. Secrecy – not tell anyone about good things I have done. 12. Simplicity – slow down, pare down, do/buy/possess/and eat less in order to have more energy, time, and resources to enjoy and help other people. 13. Chastity – guard purity in my mind, motives, speech, deeds, entertainment, and technology.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The BIG STORY OF THE BIBLE: The Bible contains many stories; but all the stories together make up ONE STORY . . . God’s story; the human story; the world’s story; my story, your story, everyone’s story; the story of which every other story is a part: The Bible is a story: Creation  Rebellion and Ruin  Redemption  Restoration Chapter #1: Creation: God made a perfect world. He made the first humans, Adam and Eve, in His own image, to rule and manage His perfect creation. They lived in perfect harmony with God, each other, and the entire creation. It was Paradise; heaven on earth! Everything was perfect! Chapter #2: Rebellion and Ruin: Created in God’s image, Adam and Eve had the capacity for moral self-determination—the ability to choose right or wrong, so their relationship with God was real, personal, dynamic, and intimate. They were not automatons, the original “Stepford People.” Adam and Eve chose to sin by breaking the one rule God gave them. Their sin of rebellion against God changed them, their yet-to-be-born descendants, and the entire creation. Everything was ruined. Now they were and we are broken people living in a broken world. The world is still beautiful but it is also very, very broken – filled with selfishness, injustice, poverty, violence, pain, tears, sickness, suffering, and death. Chapter #3: Redemption: God still loved His broken creatures so He PROMISED to send a RESCUER into the world who would REDEEM sinners and conquer death so they could be forgiven, made new, and given eternal life. Chapter #4: Restoration: God PROMISED that the Rescuer would ultimately RESTORE His ruined creation to its original perfection; that He would fix everything sin broke, banish sin and suffering, and create a wonderful and perfect new heaven and earth where His people will live forever in love, peace, prosperity, justice, health, and fulfilling creativity.