Friday, June 17, 2011

Musings in Matthew (Matthew 3 & 4)

I don't know if I ever really noticed or why this stood out to me this time around, but did you notice that John the Baptist's and Jesus' message was the exact same? Both went about preaching "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".

If that was the message to prepare people for Jesus' coming, AND it was the message that Jesus also preached, is it not STILL the message we should proclaim as we prepare for His Second Coming?

I realize that there are a lot of other things people need to know... after all, there are hurting people with lives full of messes whether it's a rocky marriage, out of control finances, raising children, etc. But I would like to submit that if we first don't lead someone to a relationship with Jesus, what makes us think we can help with the marriage, finances, or family?

We do run the risk of sounding condemning, unless we begin to be transparent in telling people about our personal experience in repentance and beginning a relationship with Christ. See, I think it meant something for John the Baptist who gave up a "normal" life in order to preach this message that made the message sincere. And no one can question Jesus' sincerity, after all He died and rose again to prove His love for us was sincere. I guess I have to ask myself, and we have to ask ourselves... are we sincere? What have we given up to follow Christ? Is our love for those Jesus died for sincere? If not, what does it sound like when we preach "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"? I'll leave that for you to answer...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Musings in Matthew (Chapters 1 & 2)

Have you ever read in the bible and thought, "I've read this before" and then you have to fight your mind to stay completely engaged so that you keep your mind and heart open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit? That started to happen to me while reading Matthew today, but then something hit me: did you ever notice how God communicated to Joseph? God often spoke to Joseph in his dreams. That's not too unusual, God spoke to many people in the Bible thru their dreams; and I suspect God still speaks to people thru their dreams. Here's the point that got me thinking... notice how Joseph immediately KNEW it was God! He didn't wonder if God spoke to him; he just KNEW it.

A group of my girlfriends and myself just recently went thru the study "Experiencing God". The study talked about hearing and knowing God's voice. One verse in the study is John 8:47 which says "he who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God" (ouch) Another passage is John 10 where Jesus talks about being the Good Shepherd and His sheep know His voice. In pondering on those verses, I think about times in my own life where I am struggling to hear the voice of God. I doubt that I am hearing Him. Why? Am I not His? Or is it that I don't know His voice?

Scary to think. Mostly I feel as if God is silent or I doubt His voice when I am not spending the time I should with Him. Most of us who proudly proclaim we are Christians have heard and have been taught the importance of a daily quiet time with God. Yet I am certain it is not just me who can neglect that special time alone with God. I suspect with all my dealings with so many who are struggling to hear His voice, it is because we haven't been spending time with Him and given enough time, we "forget" what He sounds like.

This has happened too much to me. I have failed too often and neglected to set aside time with my Savior, and yet I long to hear from Him. My desire is to truly know God. To know His voice from all others in my life, so that the moment He speaks to me, I will respond just as Joseph did, and obey His every command. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What are we doing?

Sitting in staff meeting at church last nite, some great questions and discussions were started. What should the church expect from its members? Most Christians are aware that the Christian life is a disciplined one. We are required by God to pray daily, study His word, tithe regularly, give generously to one another in both our belongings and our time, to be disciples and to make more disciples. We discussed a discipleship process we began in January, which is in need of revamping and tuning because this is its first year and we definitely see where it needs improving. One problem encountered by many who are discipling is an excuse given by the disciple "i just don't have time". Wow. The discipleship process requires the disciple to meet once a week with their mentor but daily quiet time to read scripture and answer some questions about the passage. On average each daily exercise takes around 10 minutes give or take 5 minutes. So, is it "we" don't have time for quiet time with God? Or is it we are trying to add to our quiet time with God instead of using this as a tool to discipline ourselves to have a daily quiet time? Both of these situations seems "easy" (but not really) to fix. If we are too busy to have a quiet time with God, then we have to admit we are in complete disobedience to God. Hard to hear that, but that's the truth of the matter. If we don't have time because we are trying to add it to the quiet time we have already dedicated to God, then why not for the time of the course do the discipleship material for your dedicated time. After all, the discipleship process is to help you in your walk with Christ and to make you a stronger Christian and closer to Him in all areas of your life.

What do you think? Is that too much to ask? What do you think God requires? Is He accepting of our excuses not to spend time with Him? Or do you think that grieves Him? Is it really that we don't have time, or is it that we won't make the time that He requires? After all, He has given us the amount of time He says we need to accomplish all our "tasks" for Him.

What say you? Better yet, what do you think God says about it in His word through the principles He has established for us to live by?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Discipline of Simplicity and The Discipline of Solitude

Simplicity -- this is the discipline that goes against our American way of thinking. It is to be content with what you have and know that you can go without. You don't need to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, most of what this society says you "need" you don't. It's funny that the more we are "blessed" with material things, we think we are so poor because we don't have what others have. We think that if our children don't get everything their hearts desire at Christmastime that we have somehow failed them. So we make sure they have an xbox, AND a PS3, AND a wii, AND a computer, AND Nintendo DS, AND all the latest games, mp3 players, cell phones, fashions, as well as persue these things for ourselves. We spend way too much on cars and clothes and housing, etc. No one is saying that you must live in extreme poverty to be godly, but is living in excess godly? Jesus didn't have a place to lay his head. Again, I'm not saying we need to be extreme and homeless to achieve Christlike-ness. But we have lost our generosity. We have to have so much stuff that we don't have anything to give to others. Now that sounds totally irrational doesn't it? But it's true. We can't or don't give to others because it means we'll have to give up something for ourselves or our kids. What are we teaching them? Live moderately, not in excess. Learn to be generous. Be content with what you have. Don't seek to have things just to have things. Don't think you need something when it is simply a want. Simplicity.

Solitude -- This one is also called silence. It doesn't always mean you have to be alone, but you do have to get alone with your thoughts and learn how not to always have something to say. This one is difficult for me, I must admit. After all, my nickname in high school was "peanut gallery". If you know me, you know I ALWAYS have something to say. One of the things that is difficult for most people I know is not to explain their actions or defend themselves with words. Sometimes we shouldn't speak. If we have followed God's direction and you get "attacked", why do we feel the need to offer our own defense. God will be our defender. We can't handle the silence or the awkward silences between people, but how can God lead us in words if we use idle talk to fill up the time and space. Learn to be quiet and alone with God in your thoughts and He well help you bridle your tongue.

What say you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Discipline of Fasting

Oh, this is the hardest one so far. I have been being led to do a fast, but I admit I've been resistive. It still seems hard after reading about it, but at least now I have direction. Foster suggests starting slow. Doing 24-hour fasts (two meals). He says that most find lunch to lunch the "easiest". Do it once a week for several weeks. As you go along, God will reveal things in your life that need work. I don't completely feel ready, and I do feel like I will fail, but I really do desire to meet God on a whole new level. To seek Him more and to know Him more. The purpose of fasting is to center our thoughts and prayers firmly on Jesus Christ. But fasting will also bring about another "benefit". It will reveal what controls you. That is a sobering thought! I mean, do I really want to know? Yikes! I do want to know, and I do want to be better.

After you accomplish 24 hour fasts, and do well and feel called to "step it up" as it were, try 36 hour fast (missing 3 meals). During the 24 or 36 fasts, you can do a restrictive fast, where you abstain from food, but drink fresh fruit juice, or a normal fast, which is abstaining from food and ONLY drinking water (healthy amounts). Foster describes an absolute fast that is abstaining from all food and drink, but one should ONLY do this if he/she absolutely knows God is asking that of him/her but NEVER for more than 3 days. An absolute fast only occurred in the Bible rarely and it was clear that God supernaturally intervened.

If you feel led to go beyond a 36 hour fast, I would suggest reading Celebration of Discipline first and understand what you will be doing. Don't just jump into it. And ONLY do it to center your life on Christ. It is not a use for penance or because you think you will gain favor from God. It has to be for the right reason and the right reason is that it is God-initiated, God-ordained to center forever on God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Discipline of Prayer

Ok, so I'm reading this book "The Celebration of Discipline" and it's really teaching me alot. I've read on the discipline of prayer. Foster first starts talking about these giants in the faith who pray 3 hours a day and i'm thinking "ok, i'm totatlly going to fail at this" but then he makes me feel a little better by saying don't attempt that... you've gotta work up to it. He has this great illustration to look at your prayer life. He talks about your TV set and you know it's working when you see the picture. He says it's the same with prayer. You know it's working when you see results. And just like if the TV isn't working, it isn't because there aren't TV signals around, it's something blocking the signals. Are you really connecting with God in prayer? Are you praying God's thoughts and His desires, or your own selfish desires. Do you pray believing it will change the future, or do you think the future is set in stone and prayer has no effect upon it? He makes some excellent points and at the same time makes it liberating. To know God so well you know and pray His thoughts. Now there's power!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Discipline of Study

Ok, so like i said before i'm reading about and learning the spiritual disciplines. who knew studying was a discipline??? so Foster explains that there are four steps in studying as a discipline. Repetition, contemplation, comprehension, and reflection. I learned long ago about the repetition. read one book of the bible completely through in one day in one sitting. do that about 10 times before you really get something profound out of it. contemplate on it. meditate on it (which by the way is another discipline). Then, and only then ask what is it saying. Comprehend it. After you know what it says, then ask yourself how you should now be in light of this scripture. Wow! it's clear to me why it's called discipline. oh God, teach me to be disciplined. Foster also recommends to periodically schedule for yourself a study retreat where you get away for a weekend to devote it completely to study without interruption. prepare yourself for 10-12 hour day of studying a book of the bible. on a regular basis, read smaller books of the bible that you can read through easily in one sitting everyday for a month. the same book. sounds completely life-changing. anyone read for some life change???