Archive | March, 2015

Training Your Brain

31 Mar

Greetings,

This phrase of “training your brain” has really helped me to understand that we are not controlled by our thoughts, but we can control them.  It is amazingly liberating.  I know many people believe that are stuck in worry, or anxiety, or anger; but really all of that can be changed by letting God rule your mind.  I think this has helped me more in my life than any other lesson.

If you take seriously the words of Paul in Philippians, then you can choose to think of all the kinds of things he mentions rather than our usual mental loop.

Tuesday,  What to study          

Philippians 4:8-9   Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I believe it is worth the energy to memorize this or other verses that take our minds away from the negative, useless train it often runs on and put it on a new track.

Colossians 3:1-17 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication,  impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On   account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are     disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the   Image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If you think about the people you like to be around, my guess is you like to be around those who are clothe in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  It sounds like a great combination to me.  And it is a choice we make every day in how we act and react in our lives.

So, if we truly believe that we have been raised into new life in Christ, then we can let the Christ life grow in us.  If the resurrection power of Christ doesn’t have the power to train our brain, then what are we talking about as people of faith.

I pray that you and I can be present and aware of the moments in our life that God wants to use for training us deeper in our faith.  So that we can be open and willing to change is not God-like in ourselves and be ready to rejoice when we feel God’s grace flowing freely through us.

What an adventure.  Peace,

30 Mar

Good morning,

I hope your Palm Sunday celebrations were meaningful and that you to have entered into this holy week in Jesus’ life.

Yesterday in class we talked about fasting.  I think the wisdom that I took away from the meeting is two fold.  First, as with all aspects of our lives, a fast is God inspired and God directed.  I don’t think we have to wait from the word on high, but when we choose to fast it should be out of a place of deep prayer.  Secondly, that fasting, more than any of the disciplines can reveal what holds us in bondage.  So, the process of fasting becomes a process of revelation of the parts of ourselves that we keep from God.

I am going to try to re-institute a routine of fasting.  Of course, I tell you this not to say – “look at me; I’m fasting!”.  But to encourage you to join me on the journey.  If there is wisdom that you find as you submit to this most disliked and misunderstood discipline, please share with me and I will do the same.

This week we begin the discipline of Study.  Since there is no class on Easter, we will be enjoying Study for two weeks.  I think going in knowledge, and therefore, love of God has been the greatest gift in my life.  The Proverbs call us to study.

Sunday,  Call to study                                  Proverbs 1:1-9, 23:12, 23

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

For learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Hear, my child, your father’s instruction,
and do not reject your mother’s teaching;
for they are a fair garland for your head,
and pendants for your neck.

Apply your mind to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.

Buy truth, and do not sell it;
buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

 

I always find it sad that many of the “religious groups” of our time are so anti-intellectual.  They have declared that asking questions in unfaithful.  This has never set well with me.  I think asking questions and praying and seeking God’s wisdom is a great way to employ our time.

Monday,  The source of truth

James 1:5    If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

Hebrew 4: 11-13   11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

2 Timothy 3:16-17  16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

So, scripture is a wonderful source of study.  Yet, as I look out my window at the birds at our feeder, I know they reveal an aspect of the Divine as well.

I pray we will drink deep from the well of the Eternal this most holy of weeks.

Peace

Preparing to listen

28 Mar

Good morning,

I am so easily pulled off task.  Yesterday even though I began this blog, I didn’t finish.  Although I now have bulletins for tomorrow morning at both churches, tomorrow night’s hymn sing and Holy Thursday service. Yeah!

The scripture lesson points to a tradition that we should consider more in our lives.  A time of prayer and fasting before a decision is made about mission and ministry.

Friday,  The inauguration of the gentile mission        Acts: 13:1-3

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

It is a great way to make decisions.  I think of how often we run ahead with our ideas and hope that is works.  Are we afraid that we can not discern the voice of God?  Do we convince ourselves that what we are doing is “God’s will” when we rarely quiet our own minds to listen.

In the reading for today the church is continuing to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  In some towns people try to kill them, but they preserve and some people come to believe in the power of God’s grace.

Saturday,  The appointment of elders in the churches  Acts: 14:21-23.

21 After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. 22 There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

I think even to be intentional enough focus our lives on God in each moment of our lives is a type of fasting.  To lean only on the prompting on God.  To find the balance of God’s living presence is to find strength for our lives.   Peace

Courage

26 Mar

The scripture on fasting comes from the story of Esther.  It is one of the few books in the Bible whose story is about a woman.  Probably you know the story of Esther, selected for her beauty, is place in the harem of the king.  She risks her life to save God’s chosen people, her people.  To support her and give her courage her uncle, Mordecai, carries her message for the Jews to fast for three days.

I think this fast is a offering to God.  It is an intercession of Esther behalf to keep her safe on her dangerous mission to the king.  And Esther finds courage to risk her life, knowing her people have given up eating and drinking for three days (it is always understood that they are still drinking water.)

Thursday,  An absolute fast                  Esther 4:12-17

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

There is a single-mindedness in this passage.  We have become such a diverse people, I wonder if we could ever have the kind of joint activity, particularly fasting.

Blessings and peace,

When in trouble. . .fast

25 Mar

This morning’s reading is from Nehemiah.  He has just hear that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and the gates set on fire.  The chosen people of God are in trouble.   Nehemiah response is to fast and pray.

I think about Gandhi’s response to the violence in India was to fast and pray.  Maybe we misnamed the event when we called it a hunger strike.  For a hunger strike, you just stop eating.  To fast, you humble yourself before God, focusing your mind, body and spirit towards the Divine with nothing to distract you.

Wednesday,  A normal fast                              Nehemiah 1:4-11

When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments; let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned. We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place at which I have chosen to establish my name.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great power and your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!”

So, what do we do when we are in trouble?  Nehemiah was fasting because his people were in trouble and he was their leader, but what do we do when trouble is knocking on our door?  I know that many of us prayer, and seek a good friend to talk to, but I wonder what would happen if we also choose to fast for time.  This would not be like our appetite deserting us when we are upset, but an intentional focusing on God.  To opening lay out the hurt, and pain, and problem before God, fast and pray, and then look for the healing that God’s presence can bring.

Just wondering. . . Peace

 

24 Mar

Good morning,

Many culture have had the tradition of what was called a vision quest by First Peoples.  Men, usually it was men, went into the wilderness, to fast and open themselves to communication from the Divine.

This is an interesting and slightly strange passage.  Daniel has fasted for three weeks (he doesn’t even bath!! Really!!).  It seems as though the being given Daniel the vision couldn’t get there for three weeks.

I will be honest that I never really understand these kinds of passages.  I think the writer is trying to convince their listeners by upping the intensity of how the vision can into being.

So, here is what I know.  If we are willing to surrender our lives to God; time, food, work (maybe not bathing); then we can be more open to God’s voice in our lives.

Tuesday,  a partial fast     Daniel 10:1-14

In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict. He understood the word, having received understanding in the vision.

At that time I, Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks. I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.

10 But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 He said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, 14 and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days.”

Daniel was humbling himself for his people.  I think today I will pray for our leaders.  I think with the current complexity of our world and its demands it is difficult to be a leader of any kind.

I pray you find peace and joy in the midst of this day.

Surrender

23 Mar

Greetings,

Yesterday classes focused on prayer.  The on going and life changing conversation with the Divine.  We talked about how the strengthen our prayer life.  I don’t think we came up with any incredible revelations, but there is a desire to encourage one another.

This week we will be considering the discipline of fasting.  I think it is the lest popular and most misunderstood of the disciplines that Foster covers in his book.

I think, as with all disciplines, fasting begins with a conversation and openness to God.  Let God lead you into what would be important for you to surrender.  My sons where always willing to given up vegetables for Lent, but never video games.  Sometimes I don’t think we even know what is controlling us and keeping us from yielding to God.

To seek God’s presence and prepare for his public ministry Jesus surrendered everything and went into the wilderness for 40 days.  Without schedules, distractions, excuses, or the demands of others Jesus sees the reality of the things that draw us away from God’s presence and makes us vulnerable to the evil of our world.

Sunday,  The example of Christ                     Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and  ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The reading for today is enumerates how the people of God have gotten the idea of fasting wrong.  They give the outward appearance of fasting, but do not live as God’s people where it really matters.

Monday,  God’s chosen fast                                          Isaiah 58:1-7

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

According to Isaiah, it is living in ways of compassion, generosity and justice that pleases God.

It so easy to lose track of the work of God for the least and lost.

I pray that God will open our hearts today to see the fast that God desires in our lives.

Peace