Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prayer & Fasting

We talk a lot about prayer in our Christian circles. How often, how to, when to, what way, with what get the point.

Just because we talk about it often doesn't mean we're good at it, or that we pray often. We'll save that discussion for another time.

But we don't talk much about fasting. Why? What are we so scared of? Is it because we don't do it, or because we don't want others to know about it?

In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about 3 things we shouldn't do just for show: give to the needy, prayer, and fasting. Two of these (giving to the needy and prayer are in the forefront of our post-modern minds) the third...let's not talk about it.

In our over indulgent, self reliant, push until you can't anymore, the fasting needs a quick re-entry into the regular Christian practice. I admit- I'm not very good at it (and even if I was I wouldn't tell you about it right!). But I know there are times I have trouble focusing on my relationship with God. I also know from past experience that fasting allows you specific, set aside time to focus on Him. You may be distracted by the gurgling in your stomach, but can you allow that to put you into stronger communication with Him?

This Sunday we will continue our series on the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. It is quite possibly the most important teaching in all of Christianity. With in it, we find some of the most difficult teaching in all of Christianity. Prayer and fasting, certainly fall into that category.

More next week on this...after I do some more, study, prayer, fasting, and preaching on it (Sunday @ Grace Crossing).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Who Wants Maturity

In our society today we have a strange dichotomy at work. On the one hand, we want to be treated as an adult, as a mature person.  On the other hand, adolescence has pushed into the mid-20's, people get 7 year itch every 3-5 years, and mid-life crises seem to rise in the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. We want all of the clout of maturity without any of the responsibility. 

Responsibility, that is a word as well received as maturity...I digress.

I have a puzzling occurrence in my studies as of late. The concept of maturity in Christ keeps coming up. I don't know if God is trying to tell me something and I'm just not getting it or if there is a running theme that we (I) often miss.  I first noticed it in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48

Surely he doesn't mean we are to be perfect, blameless, with out sin as he was. No- that is impossible. So what does he mean? The word translated "perfect" here is the Greek word "teleios," which means to be mature, complete, of full age, full grown. Jesus is calling us to maturity, to be transformed into his image (2 Corinthians 3:18). 

Then I'm reading 1 Corinthians for our small group on Tuesday nights. I'm reading the first couple of chapters, and there it is again jumping off the paper at me: "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing." 1 Corinthians 2:6 

Maturity here again is "teleios" in the Greek.  Paul, like Jesus, is calling us to a maturity that doesn't look like the world. This maturity isn't something that one can just come up with on their own. It is cultivated, brought into maturity, becoming complete. (See Romans 12:1-2 for more on this, and yes it mentions "teleios" too)

What does spiritual maturity look like? How do we come into this maturity? Is this something we strive for or does it just happen? 

Unfortunately, we often equate maturity with experience. I believe experience plays into it but it is not the foundation or the building block of maturity. Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 3 to explain it further.

1) God causes the growth. (3:6) 
2) We need others to plant and water in our lives. (3:5-10)
3) The Spirit of God takes up residence in us causing transformation. (3:16) 

And there should be evidence of the Spirit and others causing growth and change in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-25). As we allow the Spirit to do his work in us, maturity comes as a by product. If you ask me what marks maturity or "teleios," I would tend to answer: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Types of Christians

We had the pleasure of strong preaching from Randy Harris last Sunday morning. He did a great job (no surprise) introducing Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. During his intro he discussed 5 different types of Christians today. Here they are (descriptions loosely based on his comments):

1) Intellectual Christians: those who approach faith from the area of the mind. Tend toward Bible studies and sermons.

2) Servant Christians: those who approach faith by serving others. Tend toward active invitations to service oriented opportunities.

3) Relational Christians: those who approach faith by focusing primarily on relationships with others. Tend toward hospitality, parties, all things social in order to build relationships.

4) Contemplative Christians: those who approach faith by seeking alone time with God. Tend towards prayer meetings, quiet, solitude and other simple spiritual disciplines.

5) Emotive Christians: those who approach faith by expressing their feelings toward him. Tend toward more expressive worship, activities that help them to feel good or help others to feel good, they follow their hearts.

So which one are you? From what direction do you typically approach your faith? Which one do you relate to the least? Is there one that you need to grow in or be more like in your walk with Christ?

Links to Living Jesus Materials

Randy's Message at Grace Crossing

Thursday, February 07, 2013


How do you prepare for your day? What is your morning routine? Most of us get up out of bed (after only one or two snoozes right?). Then shower and get dressed, maybe eat breakfast (most important meal of the day some say). Is the remainder of your morning spent rushing around trying to get to work or school? Did you take the time to check facebook? Did you watch or check the news? Then all of a sudden you are sitting at work wondering where the morning went.

Where was your relationship with God in the midst of all of that business?

Did you take the time to pray? Did you take the time to read from His inspired Word? Did you turn on some worship or listen to an audio Bible on your drive?

Spiritually we function just like our physical bodies: garbage in, garbage out. When I am disciplined with my body; eat right, work out, run, get plenty of sleep, not too much caffeine, my body responds and I feel so much better. More seems right with my world than wrong. However, when I don't do right by my body...well you know the feeling.

Spiritually when I am in relationship, spending time with, making it a priority to be with God...everything seems better. Life circumstances may be just as good or bad, but my attitude and how I approach them is completely different when I am connected to the Father.

Are you connected to the Father? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit room to work through your life? What does this look like in your life? Are you spiritually regular? What spiritual disciplines are you learning right now?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8, 9 NIV)

Put it into practice and may the God of peace be with you.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Why are Churches of Christ shrinking?

Here is a great post by James Nored, a Christian blogger from Missional Outreach Network. He has some great insights on the current conditions in Churches of Christ. He also shares some opportunities to grow and become more relevant to our culture.

I think one of his thoughts that resonated most with me was, "It was assumed that education equals transformation." All too often we have thought, said, preached that if we tell them or if we read it, then they will be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Go here to read his post:

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