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Showing posts from October, 2011

Missional meditation

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Mother Teresa set the tone for the spirituality practiced by the Sisters in her community. Here is something she taught them:
Let us remember that Jesus always praised the faith of people -- therefore, often during the day we will pray: "Jesus in my heart increase my faith, strengthen my faith. Let me live this faith through living, humble obedience."

A question to ask yourself when making decisions

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In her book Inner Compass (a great book about discerning God's will for your own life), Margaret Silf includes this devotional thought:
Recall a decision you made recently. Can you identify your reason for deciding as you did? Did you decide in the hope of gaining something, in the fear of losing something, or out of a state of inner freedom? If we are making decisions out of a desire to gain something or a fear of losing something, we might as well be locked up in a dungeon cell. We are trapped in a cycle of wanting to take from the world in order to satisfy our desires or sooth our fears.


If we are coming from a place of being able to give ourselves away without demanding to receive something in return, then we are in a state of freedom. That's like stretching out our arms in an open field.


I invite you to ask this question when you are making decisions. Are you approaching people and situations driven by the desire to take and possess them so you can fulfill your desires or…

Taize prayer and the resolve never to run away from God's call

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Today I viewed a video on the history of the Taize contemplative prayer community in France, and one line jumped out at me. The community had grown and grown, even to the point that Pope John Paul II visited the Taize community in 1986. Reflecting years later on this momentous occasion, Brother Roger, founder of Taize, said,
"Ah! We became aware that God was expecting something from us." What a statement -- so simple yet a thought to stop and reflect over. "We became aware..." Becoming aware assumes two things. First, we are always catching up to God. Second, we do well when we pay attention to his movements.

"God was expecting something of us." Interesting way to put things! What is God expecting of us? I ask this question about Sanctuary Church. What does God expect? What is our calling? What has he put in front of us, and how can we respond as disciples of Jesus?

We can also ask these questions of ourselves. In fact, Brother Roger goes on to say,
"…

Seeking God's Will in Big Decisions, post 2

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Last week I posted the first installment on "seeking God's will in big decisions." In that post, I wanted to establish that we do first things first. And if we are going to make decisions with God, first things are waiting on God in a humble posture of praying and fasting. Once you establish that foundation, what comes next? For me, and based on my research, it involves looking at our history. Specifically, we seek to "see God in our story." Why? Because what God is going to do in the next chapter of my (or our) story is based on what he has already done in the previous chapters.

Look at the apostle Paul. He is commissioned along with Barnabas to begin a mission to the Gentiles in Acts 13. What we might not appreciate is that there was quite a backstory that led to his commissioning. Here are the highlights:
His calling (Acts 9:16): Saul is sitting in a room in Damascus, blinded and dealing with the shocking reality that Jesus really is Lord and master. Jesus co…

Starbucks -- to display your Bible or not?

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In romantic relationships, there's an ongoing debate about how much PDA is okay. What's PDA? "Public Display of Affection." How much hugging, kissing, handholding, and so on is allowable in public? 
Today I noticed that I have an inner debate about PDB while I'm in Starbucks. What's PDB? "Public Display of Bible." If you're doing Bible study in Starbucks, how much PDB is appropriate? 
I work at coffee shops at least a couple of times a week, and often I am preparing my sermon for the weekend. Oddly enough, when I do Bible study like this, I feel mildly conflicted about putting my Bible out on the table. I often use BibleGateway.com anyway, so Bible display not an issue. But today I had to acknowledge to myself (and to God) that PDB is an issue in my conscious mind. 
I don't like to be too showy about public display of religious equipment, as if displaying my Bible might make make it look like I feel holier than other people in Starbucks. Als…

Christian fasting -- why not do it today?

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Fasting is a discipline that has been around since Old Testament times, was practiced by Jesus and his followers, was recommended by Jesus, and has a long history in the Christian church. It is a "stock" Christian practice for Christians in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. However, most American Christians do not practice fasting. Who's pattern should we follow? Even though it's uncomfortable, I want to follow the Jesus pattern. Therefore, I have asked the Sanctuary community to fast one day a week, especially while we are in this period of discerning God's unique calling on our church.


What is Christian fasting? Author Lynne Baab defines it this way: “Christian fasting is the voluntary denial of something for a specific time, for a spiritual purpose, by an individual, family, community or nation” (Fasting, p. 16). 


If you don't know which day to fast, Thursday is a good day (Sanctuary instituted Global Thursdays). If you wonder how long to fas…

Opening our hearts to God, post 1

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Marcus Borg is a notoriously liberal theologian (he has been one of the champions of the Jesus Seminar), but I just finished reading his book The Heart of Christianity, and I found one chapter particularly helpful. I want to write a couple or three posts about what I found.

The chapter is about opening our hearts to God.
The heart is an image for the self at a deep level, deeper than our perception, intellect, emotion, and volition. As the spiritual center of the total self, it affects all of these: our sight, thought, feelings, and will. (Borg, p. 151) In this light, David's prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" takes on new meaning. David is asking for a complete renovation of himself in God's hands.

Borg observes that our hearts can either be open to God or closed to God.
The condition of the heart matters. The heart, the self at its deepest level, can be turned toward God or away from God, open to God or closed to God. But its typical condition is that it i…

Seeking God's will in big decisions, post 1

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Everyone faces big decisions in life. Should I marry this person? Should I take this job? Should I move to that city? Should I invest my time in these ways? If you are a Christian, you want to follow God's leading rather than just striking out on your own. The question is, how do we go about discerning and following God's will when we face decisions?

As individuals we face big decisions, and churches face them too. At Sanctuary Covenant Church where I am the pastor, we are facing a big question: what is the unique calling of our church, and how can we fully live into that? It's a big decision, and to be honest, it brings up all my fears about failing. More than ever I want to know what God's will is for us.

How do we go about seeking God's will? It may sound obvious, but we have to start with prayer. We don't start with fact-finding, self-evaluation, or analysis of options. We do first things first, and connecting with God is always the first thing.

It is best …