Search

CBF Women

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly…” ~ Colossians 3:16

The Discipline of Community

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

 

worship

Paul tells us Christ died so that the Church could be holy by the washing of the word, without stain or wrinkle or blemish–holy and blameless. He tells us that we are children of the light where goodness, righteousness, and truth will abound, exposing all of the deeds of darkness. He tells us we should keep ourselves from sexual immorality, greed, and obscenity. He says to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. He tells us to walk in the way of love, like Christ did, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Paul also tells us that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to each one of us for the common good–that all of these gifts are useless if not enveloped in love, which is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud. Love that honors others and seeks the good of others. Love that is slow to anger and keeps no record of wrongs–it protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Love that never fails.

Peter tells us to love deeply and show hospitality to one another without complaining. We should use whatever gift we have to serve one another, so that God may be glorified.

But why all of this encouragement and love? Both of these New Testament writers tell us the Church will suffer. It will be for Christ’s sake, and it will be for our good–that we will become mature and complete, lacking nothing–but make no mistake about it, the Church will suffer. It will be painful, and we will grieve. Instead of losing hope or giving in to a life of sin and destruction, though, God asks us to persevere. Christ knows what it is to suffer–to be humiliated, to mourn, to lose, to watch people He loves destroy themselves–and He says, Come to me, and I will give you rest. So that we can keep going. He doesn’t say to pretend we aren’t suffering, He says that those who mourn, will be comforted.

We continue to gather together–to make friends with people who look and think and act differently than we do, to pray for and love people whose worship preference is different than ours, to encourage people who challenge the way we see the church–because we need one another to run this race. We need people depositing courage into our souls. We need people to hold us accountable for the mean things we say, or for the lies we tell. We need people to remind us of exactly who God is, because Satan is so eager to keep us bound by his lies.

We need fellow believers to remind us to remain in awe of God. We need them to remind us that we were once in darkness, but that we have been set free! We need people to spur us on towards thanksgiving, to rejoicing. We need them to lay hands on our sick children, to celebrate our hard-earned anniversaries, to weep with us over scary diagnoses, to chase after us when we’ve lost our way. We need people linking arms with us to serve the least of these, to set the captives free, to spend ourselves on behalf of the oppressed, and to work to share the Good News across the globe.

The Bible tells us all of these things, and the Church echos it back and all around. God is good, and He sent His son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. We are His plan for salvation–the Church–flawed and broken and, often dysfunctional–but redeemed, and in the process of redemption, and looking forward to full redemption in the presence of our King.

So we make a habit, a discipline, of meeting together–corporately on Sundays, to break bread at each other’s homes for LifeGroups, to study God’s word together whenever and wherever we are, to serve our communities together, to celebrate joys and mourn losses together–we learn how to love one another the way Christ loved us so that everyone will know that we are His disciples. When we are filled with hope and love, the abundance will overflow into our communities and bring glory to the One who saves.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

 

Discipline of Prayer

imagesprayer

When I think about the discipline of prayer, I think about the privilege of talking directly to God, the Creator and Sustainer of Life, the Author of our Salvation. A definition from christiananswers.net says that prayer is “conversation with God, the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to Him. It is pouring out the soul before the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15) or drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28). Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to communicate with us, his personal control of all things, and of all his creatures and all their actions.” It is with that succinct definition that we move forward.

In my personal life, I have experienced the transformative power of prayer. Early in my faith, I would journal my prayers. I would read scriptures and write my thoughts and prayers through the passage. As I matured in age, I fell out of that habit, unfortunately, and in our third year of marriage, my husband and I were MISERABLE! We didn’t even have kids yet to complicate life! We both had lists of unmet, impossible, and/or uncommunicated expectations. Some people would probably have left, saying “it’s too hard,” but God divinely intervened. I stumbled across a wedding gift, Stormie Omartian’s “Power of Praying Wife,” and I dove in, desperate.

I really wanted Jacob to read the companion book, and I was mad that it wasn’t a priority to him. I started reading and praying through the month-long plan, hoping that God would change Jacob. That wasn’t how God healed our marriage. He healed our marriage through the prayer, “God, help me to be the wife that I need to be for my husband.” God changed me. Isn’t that how prayer always works? God invites us as individuals to be a part of the solution instead of changing everyone else. God aligned my desires to his, and I’m so grateful.

 We know from the Bible that prayer is NOT supposed to be what the Pharisee made it in Luke 18. The Pharisee prays loudly for everyone hear and is grateful that he isn’t a terrible person like that guy, the tax collector. He’s serious, too…it’s almost comical. Prayers are not meant for show or for boasting. The immoral tax collector in this parable demonstrates the attitude we are to have when we approach the throne of God: humble confession and faithful expectation. The tax collector knows that God alone can have mercy on his soul, and he asks with the expectation that God will hear and grant his request. Oh, how often I’ve prayed with fancy words so people see my spirituality and not my sin-stained heart. Flowery words can be a distraction from all that God wants: a “broken and contrite heart” as Psalm 51:17 says. Why did the Pharisee bother with that false humility? And why do I try to disguise my own filth? Of course God can see to the intentions of my heart.

The Bible gives us loads of information about communication with God through prayer. I want to look at two specific and different examples of requests. In John 4:46-54 we see a royal official travel miles to ask Jesus to heal his son who is nearly dead. Initially, Jesus chastises the request for a miracle before there is faith. Then the royal official asks again for Jesus to “Come down before my child dies.” Jesus responds simply, “Go; your son lives.” The royal official leaves, taking Jesus at his word. He made a bold request and trusted Jesus’ answer.

In a parable that Jesus tells in Luke 18:1-8 he tells of a judge who grants a widow’s request after her relentless petitions. Jesus tells this parable so that we will “pray and not lose heart.” The widow made continuous, consistent requests to the one she knew could deliver her. Prayer is to be the same.

These two requests of God are different, one made a simple request and left; the other made relentless requests. With burgeoning expectation, both went directly to the one they knew could answer.

 The spiritual discipline of prayer is direct contact with God; of course we want more of it. So, how do we implement regular, disciplined prayer?

Journal: Write prayers.  Either lengthy prose or short lists are fine. Format isn’t important. Set aside a few minutes each day to pray. Journaling your prayer helps you stay focused. I tend to be easily distracted, so this is my personal favorite way to stay on track.

Calendar: If you thrive on structure, you may consider setting up a schedule of when you pray for certain people. For example, Mondays you pray for your local church. Tuesdays, the global church and the persecuted church. Wednesdays, your family, near and far. Thursdays, your community and government. Friday, friends and co-workers, etc. This type of system ensures that you are praying for needs consistently.

Alarms: Set alarms on your phone to remind you to pray. Imagine how much talk-time you would get with God if you prayed 1 minute at a time several times throughout the day! I especially like this method to help me remember to pray for an urgent need consistently.

Meals: I know this seems SO basic, but it is a discipline to pray before meals. It’s easy to remember to pray when a huge group is together, breaking bread, but do you pray before your meal when you eat alone or when the kids are running late to school? I personally struggle with this, but my husband has consistently prayed before meals, even in college when he ate alone. It’s one of my favorite things about him.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do want to highlight the importance of regular prayer. In Daniel 6 we see Daniel praying 3 times a day, even when the pressure is on. I allow distractions like TV, Facebook, novels, and hunger to stand between intimate conversation with my Creator; I feel ashamed just typing that, honestly, but it’s true. Daniel did not allow even literal death to stand between him and God. His consistent time with God built his trust. The more time he spent in prayer, the more time he wanted to spend in prayer.

The first challenge is to make prayer a priority, the second challenge is to trust God to answer our prayers. I don’t mean we should tell God what we’re worried about then manufacture the results we want (remember the Bible story of Jacob and Rebekah tricking Isaac in order to get the birthright?). I mean, we should ask God to intervene and wait.

Maybe you have a relationship that seems impossible. Maybe you have finances that seem impossible. Maybe you have a child or family member whom you long to meet Jesus. Lay your requests before God and watch for God to answer them in a way that only God would do. Ask him to show you what he wants you to do. In my own life, I wanted God to change my husband. I was expecting Jacob to suddenly become more effusive in his appreciation and adoration of me. I imagined my husband would suddenly become a reader and a chef. God didn’t do that. I could have missed the blessing if I kept looking for the answer to resemble my expectation. God changed my heart. He calmed my temperament and gave me a peace and humility in serving my husband that is truly supernatural.

I am far from the most disciplined in prayer, but the more I pray about the big and little things and wait upon the Lord, the more my faith is built. Philippians 4:6 tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Moment to moment, day by day, prayer in all things. If I believe that God is always present and all-powerful, and since I am in a relationship with God, I should want to talk with God about my coming and going, the big and small concerns that weigh on my heart. Prayer in simply that, talking to an attentive God, trusting that His arm is not too short.

God Wrote a Book

 

open-bible-1024x683

We are starting a new series this week on the blog about spiritual disciplines. Sometimes when we hear the word discipline, we also hear another word: legalism. The thought of discipline can drudge up feelings of forced rituals and stale religion. But in truth, these are nothing more than some of the means we have been given to draw in close to our Creator. Through these continual encounters, we come to know and walk with the One who is our source of life. The disciplined setting aside of time to get to know the one we love. The one we’ve committed our lives to. We make such endeavors to build human relationships, so why would we approach God with something less?

We’ll start today with time in the Word.

God chose to speak to us and make Himself known in a book. If you spend any amount of time pondering that, it’s a pretty incredible reality. The Word is the place we go to hear His  voice in a concrete way. It’s where He tells us who He is, and what He cares about. How do we know God is faithful? We see His faithfulness in the stories of the lives of His people and the nation of Israel. How do we know He is loving? We see His sacrificial love played out as He lovingly give His son for us. How do we know of His justice? We see His love for the oppressed and outcast, where He chooses to show mercy and where he condemns. We cannot truly know God’s ways and character outside of the Word.

But sometimes getting there is hard. Sometimes time in the Word seems dry, like another thing on an already too-long to-do list. I have walked in many seasons like that. There is no easy prescription to get us from feeling like we are completing a mundane chore to loving the Word. There are a few things that can help make a start. One is prayer. James tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above” and that includes our desire for higher things. Ask God to stir in you a desire to know Him through His word.

Another thing that moves us along in our connection with the Word is consistency. The more we are in contact with the Bible, the more the Holy Spirit can use it to shape our hearts and minds, and the more He shapes our hearts and minds to be like His, the more we will  love our time in the Word.

The last thing that can be a great help is having a plan. It’s very difficult to follow through and grow in something without first having an intentional plan for how you will do that. We’re going to look at some practical ways to implement this into our lives.

READING

A great place to start, and a necessary place to continue is daily setting aside time to simply read the Bible. Whether that is in the form of a plan to read through the Bible cover to cover or reading one book at a time until you’ve read the whole Bible, reading methodically is the way we place ourselves consistently and regularly in contact with the Bible as whole, viewing it in all of it’s different parts. There are so many different ways to do this. My favoring reading plan is the M’Cheyne reading plan in conjunction with the  For the Love of God companion by DA Carson. In it, you are reading through four different books at the same time. The combination of Old Testament and New Testament really breaks up the monotony when you get in a tougher book (Numbers anyone?). I also enjoy seeing the Old Testament against the New Testament. Reading about the wrath and the mercy. The companion is neither a commentary or a devotional, but just some thoughts that help me understand what I’m reading. It gives a little bit of context and a whole lot of insight. There are many other read through plans available on the You Version app. A great way to go through different books is with the She Reads Truth app we have been using collectively.

Daily reading has probably been the biggest means of growth for me. It keeps my heart in tune behind the noise of life. I can tell a distinct difference in my thoughts and attitudes when I am consistent in this. The steady drip of scripture is rarely revolutionary, but, over time, it’s transformational.

IN DEPTH STUDY

Reading gives us an overview, while in depth study gives us a deeper understanding of what the text means and how it fits into the Bible as a whole. Who wrote this and who was their audience? Why were they writing? How does the historical and cultural context affect our understanding of what the author is saying? As we dig deeper, we come to a better understanding of deep theological truths. John Piper tells us,

“Raking is easy, but all you get are leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

David Mathis adds,

“Without raking, we won’t have enough sense of the landscape to dig in the right places. And without digging, and making sure the banner of our theology is securely tethered for specific biblical sentences and paragraphs, our resources will soon dry up for feeding our souls with various textures and tastes.”

I love this deeper style of learning. It completely satisfies all of my nerdy intellectual whims. I can geek out on a word and what it means. I relish comparing commentaries. Learning who God is while delving into different doctrines.

There are many ways of pursuing in depth Bible study available. We are very blessed at our church to have different ways to gather with other women as we study together through Bible Study Fellowship or our many studies offered each semester. If you’ve never jumped into one of these, I would encourage you to experience learning in community with other women. It is truly a joy.

One of my favorite books on personal in depth study is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. In it she shows the reader the process of breaking down a text and many different resources to find cultural, historical, and literary information.

Whatever avenue is taken, if we want to grow deeper, we must dig.

MEDITATION

It’s easy to get to the end of your daily reading and realize you’ve spaced out the entire time and can’t even remember what you’ve read! Meditation helps us avoid this. It is taking a small portion of scripture and lingering over it, turning it over in your mind, letting it infiltrate your heart. Then taking it with you through the day as you continue to chew on it. What does this teach me about God? How does it then affect my actions? The way  meditation works best form is through journaling. Writing out my questions for the text and letting it answer as I pray over it. Starting with questioning and ending with resolution. Slowing down to do this has really revolutionized my time in the Word.

“But his delight is in the Lord, and on His law he mediates day and night.” Psalm 1:2

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:15

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Psalm 143:5

As we stop to ponder, He aligns our hearts to His.

MEMORIZATION

Memorizing scripture is probably the most neglected of these four, and the reason is obvious, it’s challenging. Sometimes we can’t remember what we had for dinner last night  or our children’s birthday, so attempting to memorize a verse or chapter seems like a Herculean feat! As a homeschool family, scripture memory is built into our curriculum, so my kids are often memorizing (their brains are also much younger!). When I talk to them about the reason behind why we do this, I tell them that the word we have hidden in our heart is the source the Holy Spirit uses to comfort us with His truth and convict us of our sin. Can He convict us outside of Scripture? Absolutely. God does not live in a box. But He has given us this source of truth and we would benefit greatly from utilizing it!

“I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sing against You.” Psalm 119:11

Memorization has helped me cling to truth in a better way. When someone comes to me with a problem, I don’t have to search through my reservoir of wisdom (or lack there of) and wing it, I have truth from God’s word that I can share.

Maybe all of that seems overwhelming. Maybe you’re rocking a newborn and just thankful you got to shower this week. Maybe you’re tending to an ailing parent. Know that these are means. Maybe even goals. Perhaps some of them will have to be futuristic. At this season, I’m much better at reading and meditating than fitting in in depth study and memorization. Just know these are tools that are available to you. Pathways to know Him. He will meet you however you are able and give you grace for each season. Feel encouraged and not burdened.

The Christian life is about relationship with our Creator that we have gained through the sacrifice of Jesus. Relationships grow through time spent together. As we read, study, meditate and memorize we come to know more intimately the King of all kings, and the more we know Him, the more we want our lives to be about His business. I’ll leave you with this beautiful video by John Piper.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: