The peace in the storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Continue reading “The peace in the storm”

Spiritual Leadership — Encouragement

I am reflecting on some key principles of spiritual leadership as I reflected on 2 Timothy last week in a personal retreat. The first key was prayer.

The second principle is encouragement. Paul was one to call out spiritual gifts and help develop those gifts in others. Continue reading “Spiritual Leadership — Encouragement”

The maturity of the Body of Christ

The determination I carry with me every day is to move the Body of Christ, especially the local church I am privileged to pastor, toward mature thinking.

This Sunday the message will be from Ephesians 4 on “Transformed Minds, Transformed Lives” (a series we’re currently going through). We are challenged to learn Christ. There is a process of lifelong learning where we can gain Kingdom thinking.

We are watching the American Church flail badly right now because shifts are happening and the Church is unprepared. We are tossed around because we have had shallow thinking and practices in the evangelical church for far too long. We can … and MUST… do better. It is possible.

We are called to grow into a mature body. This isn’t some nice suggestion. This is the path of the Kingdom of God.

The call, quite simply, is to grow up. Now is that time. Let’s not waste it.

 

Book Review: Making Spiritual Progress

I received Making Spiritual Progress: Building Your Life with Faith, Hope and Love by Allen Ratta from IVP for the purposes of review.

It is exciting to read a book authored by a minister from my own denomination (the Assemblies of God), and to read a book that is probably one of the best I’ve seen to truly help people get moving in the proper direction when it comes to spiritual growth and maturity. And I say this as someone who is much more inclined toward Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, etc.

As a tool to get started, this book can be incredibly helpful.

Ratta goes to the heart of motivation. The “why” of doing things needs to come from faith, hope and love. He builds the foundation with the hope that anyone can changeIt is the power of the Spirit, but it is also the understanding that our “DNA” changes, not just our behavior. It our behavioral modification discipleship techniques that have caused so many to have stunted growth. Change is possible, but it has to come from the inside out.

The author builds from the very foundation and then gives well thought-out processes for how to build on faith, hope and love. He is also clear on the hyper-movements when things get out of alignment.

This book is very easy to follow. He does not “bury the lead” as to to “how” to walk in spiritual maturity. I find that refreshing. From the very beginning there is a sense of a journey that is possible and powerful.

The appendices are full of Scripture to help root the reader in the truths of faith, hope and love as well.

For those are analytical in their thinking, this book is well laid out. For the more contemplative, it comes across as too laid out. But this book has a place in the church for very helpful (and hopeful) discipleship.

IVP provided this copy for me to use as a review. I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.

Resistance

In physical training, the only way to get muscles to grow and get the fat off is to push the body. The body has to meet resistance. When resistance happens, growth can occur.

In spiritual training, it is the same principle. We don’t get growth by smooth sailing. We get growth through resistance. It is the necessity of growing our spiritual muscles through spiritual discipline. We put ourselves in a position of being out of our comfort zone in some way.

I am preaching through the first six chapters of Daniel to start the New Year. Daniel flourished because he met resistance. When spiritual matters, and his own life, were on the line, that’s when he saw the results of spiritual growth.

Smooth sailing is nice, but it does not sharpen our spiritual senses. Daniel was constantly in a position of testing and he could then see his God come through in the toughest of situations. Don’t flee from the tough road. Walk it and watch what God can do in your life.

Building Spiritual Muscle

In Matthew 6 we get those verse that talk about trusting God for the basics of life. What to wear, what to eat, etc. Trust him. Easier said than done, I know.

Wow, do I know! I live in more anxiety than I’m willing to admit! (And I happen to be admitting some, so just think…)

So, how do we get to that place of trust?

Three key areas in the beginning of Matthew 6 may give us some help:

Giving
Praying
Fasting

This portion of the Sermon on the Mount is connected in an interesting way. When we learn the joys and discipline of giving, praying, and fasting (along with other tools of spiritual formation) we will find that place of trust.

These verses are a place I will probably visit again this Sunday in our time at church.

Let’s DIG IN to the Word!

 

Shredding the Word of God

20 After leaving the scroll in the room of Elishama the scribe, they went to the king’s court and told him everything. 21 The king sent Jehudi to take the scroll, and he retrieved it from the room of Elishama the scribe. Then Jehudi read it to the king and all his royal officials who were standing next to the king. 22 Now it was the ninth month, and the king was staying in the winterized part of the palace with the firepot burning near him. 23 And whenever Jehudi read three or four columns of the scroll, the king would cut them off with a scribe’s knife and throw them into the firepot until the whole scroll was burned up. 24 Neither the king nor any of his attendants who heard all these words were alarmed or tore their clothes. 25 Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah begged the king not to burn the scroll, but he wouldn’t listen to them. (Jer. 36:20-24, CEB)

There are reactions to the word of the Lord… and there are REACTIONS to the word of the Lord. There are those times when the word of the Lord is given and we simply ignore it. This guy had such disdain for what Jeremiah was saying he shredded the document.

We all have tendencies to ignore the word of the Lord given to us. Then, there are times we act in some way that is, in essence, shredding the word given to us. We may not “like” the word given to us. We may think we’re in good shape (when we’re not) so the word given “offends” us. And we take some action that essentially lights a match to the word that was just given and we walk away.

We’ll look for a more “pleasant” word from some other source. We may just quit listening all together.

It’s not that there aren’t good words from the Lord. But when we’re in a place of correction we need the tough words. We’re just not willing to hear them.

Don’t shred the word of the Lord given to you. Don’t skip the tough passages in the Bible that “offend” you. Move through those words and have a heart that is open to actually hearing the word of the Lord.