Saturday, January 24, 2015

DRINKING TO SEE CLEARLY


Sometimes people think that drugs and alcohol will help them to find courage, be open to creativity and to see things more clearly. Unfortunately, they only experience a disappointing delusion. They are none the wiser, more bound than free and less alive in the aftermath. 



Drunkenness and intoxication take a person further away from what’s real. This is true of all our sinful desires.

James wrote to the church about their conflicting loyalties. On one hand they followed Jesus and at the same time were following the patterns of the world that took them away from Jesus.


James 4:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.


We may have more in common with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well than we might first think. In the familiar story, Jesus breaks all social and religious barriers when he speaks to a Samaritan woman with a history of adultery. He speaks to a person who thought that finding the right person would satisfy her, but it never did. She had five previous husbands and was living unlawfully with the current man.

As Jesus starts a conversation about drinking water, he leads to an invitation. Would she want to find a drink where she would be truly satisfied? He speaks about Himself as being able to satisfy her completely, perhaps even at the level of affecting her need to always have a man. As Jesus reads her mind, she realizes that God is speaking to her through him.


John 4:
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”


We see the woman scramble to understand God through her religious practices. What is the right way to worship God? Is her religion true or another? At this mountain or that one? She knew that worship was an essential part of approaching God, but had questions. There was a gap between her religion and her lifestyle.

Jesus points to something other than religion. God is seeking worshippers. In the same way that we see intimate friendship expressed within the Godhead, Jesus has come to call Creation to God’s table of fellowship. By becoming one of us, he joins Heaven and Earth. The Holy Spirit has come to unite us into the beautiful relationship God experiences within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is because of God’s Holy Spirit that we can come into friendship with God. This is the essence of what real worship is. It’s not singing the right songs, going to the right church or just having an emotional, cathartic experience. Our life in God’s Spirit starts with Jesus making a way for us to encounter the true and living God.


The spiritual disciplines speak to the mysterious reality of life in the Spirit. What are we really saying when we use the biblical language of walking in the Spirit, being filled with Spirit and being Spirit led? How can earthbound animals like us have a real encounter with God who is Spirit? The disciplines point us to places where we can drink Living Water that will quench our deepest longing.

We come by trusting the one true God who became one of us. Jesus opened a way for God to live within me. Jesus gives the drink that helps us to see God more clearly, to take our courage in God and unlock our friendship with the Almighty.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ARE YOU A DISCIPLE?



Discipleship means different things to different people.






·      A systematic and academic pursuit of spiritual practices.
·      Learning obedience to God.
·      Daily habits that improve your connection to God
·      Living as a ‘missional’ person, focused on doing the Great Commission.

Maybe you have another idea on what it means. Each of these ideas can be part of discipleship and they can also miss the point of being a disciple.

If you approach spiritual formation as a ‘to do list’ you will miss the point and grow discouraged. Discipleship is not:

·      A self-help plan to make you a better Christian
·      A way to measure yourself by God’s standards
·      A way to improve your standing with God
·      An elite activity for extraordinary spiritual giants

When you pray, worship, read Scripture, etc., you will likely find yourself in a process that reveals new layers of your weakness and vulnerability. You need to be okay with seeing yourself soberly and exposing your inner reality to God’s love.

Perhaps the best understanding of discipleship is what it meant to Jesus. Disciples were chosen and called to walk with their rabbi and learn all they could about his values and priorities.

Simply, disciples follow Jesus and learn to be like him. Discipleship causes you to grow beyond a performance based understanding to a first person response of living in God’s presence.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

TAKING HOLD AND LETTING GO

We have limited ourselves to 12 spiritual disciplines as a focus for the year. Each month we will present opportunities and challenges to engage in the theme of the month. Before we look at the January challenge, let’s get an overview of the 12.


Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, have compiled a list of spiritual disciplines and practices they believe were modeled in the life of Christ. These disciplines are typically organized into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (or “letting go”) and the disciplines of activity.[1]

We will use Nathan Foster’s list of 12 as our focus when viewed through these 2 categories. It would be a good idea to buy a notebook or journal on your phone or computer as we go through the year.


Activity (Taking Hold)

Abstinence (Letting Go)



January – worship

February – prayer


March - fasting
April – submission

May – confession

June – guidance


July – simplicity

August – meditation
September – study

October – service


November – solitude
December – celebration



Our January theme is ‘worship’. For a congregational challenge we are suggesting that you pick one or more of the following options

  1. Set aside one time per week for private worship
  2. Attend another style of church and appreciate their way of worshipping
  3. Come to ‘The Living Room’ Jan 31 @9 pm

When we ‘do’ spiritual practices that focus on activity, we engage in the activities as a means of following and responding to Jesus. When we practice disciplines of abstinence, we are learning to let go of the ‘other gods’ that demand our worship (food, materialism, independence, etc.) In learning to let go, we grasp those things that are eternal and lasting.


1 Peter 2:
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 


All of these spiritual disciplines were practiced by Jesus and encouraged among his disciples. They had their own rhythms and patterns, sometimes together and sometimes alone. They did not follow the example of Scribes and Pharisees, but that of Jesus. Disciples not only experience intimacy with their leader, but also the mysteries and tension points of being a follower.

Though we will study and practice these disciplines formally, we will find that the practice of one easily overlaps with others. We will have prescribed times set aside but the disciplines have a way of shaping the day-to-day moments of life. Paul described a life of praying without ceasing, where movement in the Spirit is as fluid as natural movement.

We move in and out, around and through this life in God. We become cognizant of the ebb and flow of relationship, waking and sleeping, eating, working and recreational time.





[1] Bill Donahue, Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996), pp. 51-52

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