This week Jason shared with us a great message from Ephesians 6:5-9 on work relationships. If you missed it or just want to listen again, it can be found here. So the question before us is; how can we be effective Christian, Christ Light (1 John 1:7), at your place of work without being Bible thumpers? Ok, Bible thumper might be an over exaggeration but we all know there is a line that as Christians we can quickly cross. My point here is not to give a fail-safe way to never cross that line but I want to share what I found to be effective and more importantly not tarnish the name of Jesus Christ.
During my devotion today I spent time in Exodus 13. Here I read about God instituting a memorial for the Israelites that would help them remember coming out of Egypt. God wanted them to remember that God had brought them out of bondage. He used the words “by strength of hand the Lord brought you out.” Read the rest of this entry »
Now into the third week of my vacation, I found myself pondering the question, “describe God”. Each day I spend time in prayer I realize that God is not some far off and unknown being; no He is the only true living God who is eager to spend time with us. We can look at Scripture and find many verses on who God is and what God is not. Numbers 23:19 states that God is not a man. Additionally, God is the giver of live (John 6:33) and is a living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Of course all of us know and have heard God is love through the Gospel of John.
As I reflect this Christmas season I am struck with the theme of Immanuel, which means God with us. Matthew refers to Jesus Christ as Immanuel in his gospel (Matthew 1:23) however, Isaiah was to first to refer to him as such more than 700 years prior to his birth (Isaiah 7:14). This idea with God with us today seems like a far off idea. Just this weekend during worship I observed hundreds gazing upward and reaching their arms into the air with the hope that God above will reach down to them. However, God is not some far off deity. No, He, God himself is always amongst us.
We see this in the book of Acts when Paul preached to the pagans of Lystra (Acts 14), he reminded them that the true God, the Creator, had always been with them, giving them witness of Himself by providing them with rains, fruitful seasons, and giving them food and glad hearts. Thus, God has always been with His creation in the sense that He, who is everywhere, has showered all mankind with blessings — despite our sins.
Over a week ago my wife and I travelled to St. Lucia to visit family and continue a church planting assessment of the island. With 97% of the population calling themselves Christian we are wondering why God is calling us to this area. For an island that is only 14 miles by 28 miles there is every Christian denomination represented. A majority of the population call themselves Roman Catholic followed closely by Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal and even a small Methodist and Anglican congregations.
We arrived just over a week ago and are starting to make contact with numerous people conversing with them about the St. Lucian’s biggest need is, how often do they attend an organized worship service, where are they spiritually, etc. there has been a common theme that I have observed.
This week brings to an end the course on spiritual formation. This course has challenged me to make better use of my time, to focus my thoughts, to make a determination Who and What is going to have the lion’s share of my attention.
Toward the end of this course we were asked to read Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. The selection of this title grabbed my attention immediately and I wondered how can spiritual disciplines be a celebration? However, a fourth century theologian Augustine once said, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”
As I began my research, I found out that Christ is all about celebration, it is to be the heartbeat of the Christian life – we have so much to celebrate. Christ’s entrance into humanity began with the angels proclaiming, “I bring you good news of great joy, which shall come to all the people.” (Luke 2:10). Christ left this world speaking these words to His friends, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Within the secular society we have not lost the spirit of a celebration. As a matter of fact this weekend we are celebrating our nations independence – the 4th of July. So why is celebration a rare event within most Christian lives? There is a tangible lack of celebration. They spend much more time moaning than they do praising. They focus on the difficulties rather than the victories. This is what Foster discovered within his own congregation; surrounded by needy people in all directions. However, this has not always been the case. The Church, specifically Christians, have lost sight of the celebration and more specifically spiritual disciplines.
This paper will discuss the Spiritual Disciplines as relayed specifically by Richard Foster and will focus on four particular sections: the nature of the disciplines, the purpose of the disciplines, the process, and product of the disciplines.
I am one of those people who love to try new things. I enjoy doing things that I have never done before. While I like to try new things, depending on the cost of the “thing” I am trying will determine how much preparation time I would spend understanding the proper way to accomplish the task.
When I was a young child, my father helped me with a 4H woodworking project. He instructed me on how to measure, cut and then assemble the magazine rack that I was building. After it was all put together, my father instructed me on how to stain the wood, which happen to be walnut. My next task was to apply three coats of polyurethane to seal and protect it. Due to other work commitments, my father handed me the polyurethane and told me to follow the instructions on the can. Being savvy and knowledgeable on painting, I decided not to read the instructions and just went along with what I already knew. Needless to say, days later when my father returned and checked on the status of my project he was not pleased. By not reading the instructions, my magazine rack was very rough and in many areas the sealant was to thick or to thin. I spent the next fifteen days sanding and removing the polyurethane then correctly applying the sealant under close supervision.
With my 4H project, I was working towards a goal of completing it for the local county fair. While my failure to understand the final step was correctable and for which I had plenty of time; there are many Christians who likewise are pursuing a goal of spiritual maturity before the day of judgment who fail to comprehend or even know how or what it means to mature toward godliness (sanctification). Some believe it is done by acquiring knowledge, while others equate it with a particular experience, or by certain rules, or of the application of formulas. While such things as knowledge and experience are important, these alone are not the mark for which we are to strive.
So, what are the marks of spiritual maturity? Before we can answer this question we must understand what it means to be mature. To be mature is to be fully developed, complete, and “grown up.” Becoming mature is a process of consistently moving toward emotional and spiritual adulthood. In that process we leave childish and adolescent habits and adopt a lifestyle where we are fully responsible for our own decisions, motives, actions, and consequences. The key word from the definition of maturity is process; as a Christian, spiritual maturity is a process. It is a process by which it is evident in a believer’s life that they are progressing and growing in discipleship toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
While there are numerous Biblical passages which help identify some of the marks of spiritual maturity, this paper will be focusing on Psalm 15:1-5. In this text, King David, identifies ten conditions of character and conduct that identify that a believer is on the path to maturity. The remainder of this paper we will discuss three prominent marks found within this text.
During my childhood I remember that as a family we use to watch an old funny practical joke television program called Candid Camera. In one of the episodes, an actor is on a busy sidewalk and begins looking at the ground. He walks around a bit and continues to look down. People are passing by and a few give him strange looks. After a few minutes, he decides to get down on his hands and knees and began feeling around with his hands. People begin to slow down to watch what he was doing. Finally, one person stops and starts looking at the ground. Then another one begins searching the sidewalk.
In a few minutes, the camera shows about a dozen people looking down, some even on their hands and knees! At that point, the actor, who got all this started in the first place, quietly got up and walked away. No one else notices that he has left. They’re so intent in their search that they never even bothered to ask what it was they were looking for.
This is a good picture of how many people live in our society today. They’re searching for something because they know there’s got to be more to life. But, they’ll never find it if they don’t know what it is that they’re missing. The Apostle Paul in a letter to the Colossians (Col 3:5-16) describes the Christian life and provides for those today the answer to what they are searching for; complete unity with Christ-God Himself.
Spirituality within our society is a very controversial topic. However, it is also a very broad topic. Spirituality for someone in Maine can be totally different than for someone in California and likewise different for someone else in Turkey. While there are many different interpretations on spirituality, this commentary will focus on Christian spirituality and specifically Christian Spiritual Formation.
In order for one to proceed there must be a clear understanding of what is meant by spiritual formation. While this sounds simple enough, placing words around such a deep and complicated subject will always leave holes and require constant refinement. With this said, spiritual formation in Christ is the process by which one moves and is moved from self-worship to Christ-centered self-denial as a general condition of life in God’s present and eternal kingdom. However, a more simple definition offered is the intentional transformation of the inner person to the character of Christ.
Spiritual formation, like other topics today, have no direct scriptural references, however that should not mean that one ignores what was so prominent in society during these times. Through proper exegesis and through personal application through the lenses of scripture, tradition, knowledge and experience will guide those on their spiritual pilgrimage.
This commentary will focus on two biblical passages, Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:17-20. Within these passages we will discover the Apostle Paul’s call for all Christians to develop a spiritual formation and how it should be applied to their lives.
As a young child, John Westerhoff was encouraged by numerous religious leaders that God had called him to be a minister of the Gospel. Westerhoff was both zealous and committed to his calling, which earned him the nickname “preach”. Westerhoff graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Ursinus College. During his time in college, he organized and led a small group of skeptics seeking to know religious truth. Sensing God’s calling in his life, he attended Harvard Divinity School and received a Masters of Divinity. After graduation, he worked within the United Church of Christ for several years. It was there that he travelled around the world interviewing people in religious and secular education while writing articles on how the church could improve spiritual formation in its parishioners.
Westerhoff went on to serve at Duke University’s Divinity School and after a twenty-year career and numerous books; he retired as Professor of Theology and Christian Nurture. It was not until 1978 that he became an Episcopalian priest. Westerhoff never saw himself as a professional Christian educator or academic scholar; his core identity has been priest, pastor, and teacher. However, his professional activities never aligned with his own understanding of himself. He founded an institute for pastoral studies at St. John’s Episcopalian Church and presently serves as theologian in residence and staff member at St. Luke’s Church in Atlanta, Georgia.