Just a quick thought this morning. Is “love” a spiritual discipline? I think it may be. It’s a spiritual gift, for sure, a fruit of the Spirit. If I don’t have enough of it, do I need to “practice” it? Should I set time aside in my day to love people, just as I set time aside to pray and read my Bible? Is God less pleased with me if I skip my Bible reading time and instead send a card to someone who is dying, or offer some answers to a questioning brother? I know I don’t love like I should (1 Cor. 13:2). Wouldn’t it make sense for me to strengthen myself in areas where I am weak, rather than continuing to work in areas where I’m already fairly gifted? I’m leaving this here for further reflection. I’m now going to send a text to someone who blesses me and give God glory on their behalf, and to answer the message of a friend who is hurting. My school studies will wait.
For the past few years I’ve participated in some form of Lenten “fast.” While my church tradition (Baptist) doesn’t usually participate in Lent, I’ve found it a good spiritual discipline. I use it in two ways: 1) I give up something I like in an effort to spark attention towards more spiritually weighty matters, and 2) I try to pick up a good habit by spending the time normally taken up by item 1 with something better. For example, one year I gave up secular music* and podcasts. I didn’t listen to jazz or pop music, only to Christian music. I didn’t listen to Click and Clack or the Modern Drummer podcast or any of my other normal podcasts. I listened only to Christian podcasts. So I let go of something I liked, and replaced it with something more spiritually substantial.
Lent starts this Wednesday, and I’m considering what to do this year. As I contemplate, the following scriptures keep coming to mind.
- A sacrifice must cost you something. You can’t give up something you don’t care about, and expect it to bring you a heightened spiritual awareness. I don’t normally drink alcohol. Therefore, abstaining from alcohol isn’t going to cost me anything. No big whoop. There will be no craving, and therefore nothing to trigger my brain; I can’t say “Man I wish I could have a beer, but I can’t so I’ll pray instead” because I’m not going to be wishing for beer. It’s not something I care about, so giving it up will be of no value. “I can’t offer the LORD my God a sacrifice that cost me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:24)
- Make sure your Lenten fast, though sacrificial, is attainable. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5) Consider carefully what you say to God you will do. I’ve never given up coffee for Lent. Since losing over 100lbs 10 or so years ago, coffee has become my drink of choice: no calories. I can’t imagine not drinking coffee for over a month. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep. I shan’t be giving up coffee this year. Perhaps some year I’ll be spiritually strong enough to do it. Until then, I’ll choose to abstain from something that “hurts,” but I won’t pick something that I think is going to cause me to stumble in my vow.
- Don’t make a big deal about your fast. See Matthew 6:16 and following verses. Don’t try to impress people with your piety. Don’t make a show of it. When I’m fasting, usually no one knows by me and God. In fact, I don’t even usually tell my wife about what I’m up to. As you consider your Lenten fast, think about doing it in such a way that’s private in an effort to keep your pride in check. Or maybe it’s just me that struggles with pride. 😉
*As a musician, I gave myself a specific out clause on my music fast. If there was a gig I had to play, and I had to learn music I didn’t know, I allowed myself to listen to those particular songs for the sake of my livelihood. Other than that limited example, it was all Christian music and spiritual podcasts.
When God called Moses from the bush, Moses stopped what he was doing, and paid attention to where God was calling him. He “turned aside” from one thing in order to be present at a better thing.
Yesterday, I was talking with a new believing Christian friend. She admitted she was having a dry spell in her Bible reading, and that she didn’t feel as connected to God as she once did. I asked her where she was reading, and she admitted she was just poking around in the Bible, not really reading anything in particular. I told her maybe she should consider reading John’s gospel, and just meditating on that for a while.
This morning, I had an idea. How about I “turn aside” from my normal Bible reading (which right now is 1st Chronicles), and I read John along with her. I’ve pitched her this idea: I’ll read John, a chapter a day, Monday through Friday. That will get us through John in a little over a month. Each morning, after I’m done reading, I’ll send her an email with some basic thoughts and comments, and she can email me if she has any bigger questions. Let’s see how this goes.
And now, thinking about this, the time I’ll be using to write this email will be time I normally use to study for my Doctrine class. How am I going to make this all fit? Let’s see how God works through this, in her and in me. I’ll report back later.
Just yesterday I was bemoaning having to read the genealogies found at the beginning of 1st Chronicles. Today’s reading in chapter 4 brought me the Prayer of Jabez.
Rememberstudying assumed getting that much attention probably . don’t particularly long . Perhaps read .
I mentioned a few weeks ago that my Spiritual Formation and Transformation class required the keeping of a journal. Today, in my study time, the chapter for the class was all about the spiritual benefits of keeping a journal. Having kept a blog for years, the idea of journaling isn’t new to me, nor some of its benefits. Much of my Facebook posting (www.facebook.com/billyrhythm) is journaling, in a sense. In fact, I hope someday someone will make a tool that will allow me to export all that data from Facebook, and import it all here. I haven’t found such a plugin or software yet, though.
Anyway, during my morning study time, in addition to reading for my classes, I do my daily Bible reading. My Bible reading plan has been the same for years. First, get a Bible. Second, start at the front. Third, read through it until you get to the end. Fourth, start over.
It wasn’t too long though before I refined my plan some. After reading the King James version, I moved to the NIV. I’m not sure from whom I stole the idea, or if it came to me organically, but I decided to switch between “word for word” and “thought for thought” translations; first one, then the other. I also decided I’d read study Bibles, and in addition to reading the Biblical texts I would also read all the notes.
Currently, I’m reading the Reformation Study Bible in the ESV version. My previous pastor considers himself a reformed Baptist, and is a huge fan of John Calvin. I consider myself a traditional Baptist, and don’t hold to the TULIP theory. I decided to read the Reformation Study Bible though because of it’s copious notes, and because I wanted a better idea of the beliefs of Calvinists.
Five paragraphs in now, and here’s the whole reason I started this particular entry. In my Bible reading I just started I Chronicles. I never have issues slowing down in Leviticus; heck, I like reading Leviticus. But having read the Bible multiple times, I know I always feel like I have to slog through certain sections. The description of the new temple at the end of Ezekiel is a tough passage for me to get through, and the first nine chapters of First Chronicles. It’s the genealogy. Ugh. I admit, I find it hard to find the practical value of this portion of scripture. I’m reminded of something I learned in my homeletics class: “Preach Christ in every sermon.” When was the last time you heard a sermon from Chronicles? Have you ever heard a sermon from the the first part of Chronicles? I’m not sure I have. Why not? Probably for the very reason I have a hard time reading it: What’s the practical application for us today?
First Chronicles chapter two, here I come.
Yesterday in Spiritual Transformation class we talked briefly about being a good disciple of Christ in the workplace. I know it’s something I struggle with; I lose patience easily with co-workers, and I want to change that. I decided that, when I open the door to the shop, I’ll take a minute to pray for my coworkers, and most importantly for my own attitude. This morning, I opened the door. I didn’t pray. I punched in, walked over to my desk, and found that someone had left a random laptop charger there. I share my desk with the desk where we check in customer computers. It’s not very big, and it becomes a catch all for all kinds of random stuff. Not only do I hate working in clutter, but I don’t think it’s a good first impression to our customers. I try to keep it fairly tidy. So what did I do when I saw this charger just left there, not put in it’s proper home? That’s right, I threw it. Literally I had not been in shop a minute when I lost my patience, got angry, and threw something. I need a heart change.
My pastor called me out this morning for not updating in four days. Honestly, I did my reading for my spiritual transformation class, and didn’t really feel moved to post anything about it. Yesterday morning, since my spiritual transformation class reading was all done, I was working on my doctrine reading. I knew that I had come to a spot in the book that started a new section, and I picked up reading there. It was about 3/4 the way through chapter on the importance of Bible reading when I thought to myself “this doesn’t really feel like a book that Dr. Sherman would prescribe for his class. We don’t really talk that much about Bible reading plans in our doctrine class.” It was then that I looked at the front cover of the book, and realized I was reading the wrong thing. Not only is it a book for my spiritual transformation class, but I was reading a chapter that wasn’t even on the reading plan for this week. And, I had developed schedule for reading this week so I could make sure to fit it all in before class on Thursday. Oh well, that schedule is all shot now that I spent the morning in the wrong text!
Crazy dream time. I was in the kitchen of neighbors Gilbert and Evelyn Post, talking with my Spiritual Transformation professor John Kasten. We were discussing the assigned readings for the class*, and were discussing the different levels of intrachurch fellowship. Professor Kasten was explaining that there are three church levels of fellowship: Churches that fellowship with all other Christian churches; churches that are more selective, and only associate with churches of similar beliefs; and lastly churches that exclude others and -won’t associate with other churches at all.
“In fact,” Professor Kasten explained “the Butter Rub Church is so shut down from the world, they don’t even realize there are other churches out there! They think they are the only church in the world.”
“The Butter Rum church?” I questioned.
“No,” Professor Kasten replied. “The Butter Rub Church. They meet in the house next to Edy Drinkwater’s**. They huddle in the there every Sunday, and don’t even realize that Spruce Head Community Church and Harmony Bible Church even exist! They have a secret religion that belongs only to them, and they are so closed down they don’t think there are any other Christians anywhere in the world. The Butter Rub Church thinks they’re the last remaining group of Christians.” And then I woke up.
*That wasn’t at all what the reading was about this week. I have no idea if church fellowships have ever been catagorized, let alone in this method.
**There is no house next to Sonny and Edy’s house. Well, at least not on the side to which Professor Kasten pointed in my dream. There’s a big marshy section there, and to my knowledge having lived here almost all my life there has never been a house there.
Part of my Spiritual Transformation class is to write a paper reflecting on a sermon called The Dust of the Rabbi.” In the sermon, Ray Vander Laan notes that what Jesus meant by a disciple and what our current culture thinks of as a disciple are radically different. I am struggling with my level of discipleship based on the level that Ray claims as being what Jesus expects. And then today, For my other class that I’m taking, I read this.
What is actually required of a disciple of Jesus? Based on the sermon examples I’m so not close. I’m not even a good pupil.
A little pondering and reflection this morning. I’m reading my assignments for my doctrine class with Dr. Robert Sherman at New England Bible College, and we’re reading Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson. In the section about soteriology (salvation), he lists five “Current Conceptions of Salvation.” They are liberation theology, existential theology, secular theology, the modern Roman Catholic theology, and evangelical theology. Mr. Erickson gives several paragraphs to each concept, giving basic tenants of each one. I noticed in the first one, in his discussion of liberation theology, that he could describe the position without using the word “Christ” or “Jesus.” I noted that in the book: “There’s no Jesus in this section; what’s He for?” I continued to read about existential and secular theologies. No Jesus there either. Only in the Catholic and and evangelical methods does he describe using the words Christ, Christian, or Jesus. I thought to myself “Why would I concern myself with a system of current Christian theology that can be discussed without the word Jesus or Christ in it? Surely a Christian theory should be steeped in Christ, right? As Christian’s read their Bibles, there’s this section toward the end, the last third or so, and it’s all about Christ! Surely something that takes up that many pages should concern us, right? Right? If your Christian theology can be summed up without using the word Christ in it, I think you may be doing it wrong.