My first Sunday as pastor of our church was Father’s Day 2004, which means that I’ve been part of our church for ten years. All of us tend to get reflective on days like this and it’s a gift to be able to share moments with people who matter.
Yesterday, we introduced a way to read the Bible called REAP. Here's an example of what REAP looks like, using our next sermon text in Luke 18:1-8:
Jesus tells a story to help his closest followers keep praying while they wait for the coming of God's kingdom.
What will I do in the crises that I'm going to face today - will I ask God to save me or will I spend today trying to save myself? God is nothing like this judge - he listens and responds when I need his help. He blesses and blesses and blesses and he promises to come through with impeccable timing. How often is my failure to pray an indictment on my frustration with God's timing and my lack of belief in his willingness and ability to help?
I've turned prayer into an infrequent, episodic, formalized event that puts my unwillingness to trust God in pious language. The way forward is not a plan to pray more in 2014; the way forward is throwing myself on the mercies of God in the hope that he might pry open my soul to the glories of 'Jesus, ready stands to save you, full of pity joined with pow'r'.
This doesn't mean that rhythms and patterns of prayer are unnecessary or unhelpful. My hope is that God will transform practices of prayer into something that transcends ritual.
Father, save me. Give me the persistence of this widow to ask and keep asking for your help, as the Spirit reminds me how desperately I need you and how willing you are to help.
It has never been easier in the history of the world to read the Bible. Technology has put the Bible in your hands and given you a bazillion ways to structure how you read it. What technology cannot do is to give you a process for how you read the Scriptures and a community to read the Scriptures with together.
So beginning on January 1, our church is going to read through the entire Bible together. Here's our plan:
- Use the ESV Study Bible reading plan, which you'll be able to access on your iOS calendar, via email, the web, our church's Facebook page or you can print it out and put it in your Bible.
- Introduce a method of Bible interpretation called REAP (Read, Examine, Apply, Pray) that will enable you to listen and respond to God.
- Invite you to start or join a DNA Group that gives you the opportunity to talk about the Scriptures and follow Jesus together with 2-3 other people.
You can get ready for next year by:
- Purchasing a copy of the ESV Study Bible or using a study Bible that you already own [NOTE: you don't have to use a Study Bible but I do find them to be helpful]
- Choosing how you want your daily reminders to be delivered (calendar, email, web, print)
- Asking God to connect you with the 2-3 people he wants you to make this journey with next year.
Thursday - Why We Chose The ESV Study Bible Reading Plan
Joy. Rest. Courage. Generosity.
The life we all want. The life we discover as we turn the pages of the Scriptures. The life that no one besides the real Jesus can animate in us and through us.
We're inviting you to come and play as we read through the Bible in 2014 as a church.
Tomorrow - The Blueprint
Christ Community Church helps people follow Jesus together as a family. We are a community of disciples who make disciples. What do I think that looks like? Here are two things that I brought up in yesterday's sermon.
It means that each of us take responsibility for our own discipleship. We actively follow Jesus in a life that includes:
- Daily reading the Scriptures;
- Daily time in prayer, including 5-10 minutes of silence and solitude;
- Friendship with non-Christians, with the intention of telling them about Jesus
- At least one friendship where the other person knows all of your issues
- Financial generosity
- Weekly Sabbath, or Stop Day, where the normal activities of life are set aside for worship, rest and serving other people
Spiritual maturity is marked by a life that takes responsibility for following Jesus. But we're not made to journey through this life alone - we need the help of others - so here is one way we can help other people follow Jesus using our BLESS paradigm:
- B - Begin by praying for people
- L - Listen to them by asking good questions
- E - Eat with them and create a context for listening
- S - Serve them in a way that demonstrates your care and concern
- S - Share the story of God that we call the gospel
I find both of these lists to be a helpful barometer as I take stock of whether I'm following or avoiding Jesus. If I can help you build this into your life - praying for you, pointing you to resources, helping you build a personalized plan for discipleship and making disciples - please let me know.
If you spend enough time reading articles and blog posts on the Internet, or just have enough Facebook friends, it’s inevitable that somebody will say something that ruffles your feathers. Even those of us who aren’t normally argumentative in face-to-face settings will take a few minutes to type up a reply to something that bothers us. Or maybe you’ve posted something online that you thought was completely innocuous, only to see it blow up into a massive argument between friends of yours who don’t even know each other.
Debates on Facebook or blog comment sections don’t usually feature the strongest argumentation. It’s often just a bunch of people talking past each other, with no real debate occurring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It really isn’t that difficult to have a rational discussion. You’ve just got to start with the basics.
The first step should always be to define the issue. Ask yourself, “What topic is this person’s argument addressing?” This question actually goes deeper than their argument itself – it’s the unstated question that their argument is trying to answer. To make sure you’ve identified the issue, try framing it as a question. “Gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry” is an argument; “Should gay people be allowed to marry?” is an issue.
Seems simplistic? It is. But people ignore it all the time. If you can’t identify the issue, then you can’t understand someone’s argument or offer a rebuttal. You can’t even formulate our own thoughts properly. Not understanding the issue often leads us off on tangents where we attack a minor point or detail and miss the bigger picture of what someone is try to say. When we miss the issue completely and bring up a different, unrelated argument, we “hijack” the discussion by creating a new issue of our own.
The best way to make sure you understand the issue is to ask. Before you reply to someone, clarify the issue first. Ask, “What are you saying?” or “What’s your point here?” Simply getting on the same page is going to make your own response more effective and make the discussion more fruitful. If you want to talk with people, not just at them, make sure you know the issue.