Showing posts with label Spiritual Formation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spiritual Formation. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused on following the guidance of the Holy Spirit so he can produce the type of life that God wants us to live.

There are two ways we can live our lives. We can follow the desires of our flesh or we can be guided by the Holy Spirit. To follow the desires of our flesh leads to a life that is contrary to the Kingdom of God and thus leads to death. To follow the Spirit produces the fruit of eternal life in us. Eternal life is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In other words this is the type of life God created us to live. It is a life that demonstrates God’s character in this world.

Text: Galatians 5:16-25
Big Idea: Following the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of eternal life in us.
Challenge: This week expect the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Weekly Prayer Prompts: Drawing Closer to God


This week the prayer prompts designed to help you draw closer to God as you learn to rely on His love and guidance. Each day, I have provided you with a unique prayer prompt to guide your conversations with the Lord. I want to encourage you to take a few intentional moments each day to reflect, pray, and connect with God.

Monday: Surrendering Worries
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

1. Begin your prayer by acknowledging any worries or anxieties you're carrying.

2. Surrender these concerns to God, trusting in His love and care.

3. Pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill your heart.

Tuesday: Gratitude for Blessings
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 106:1

1. Reflect on the blessings you've received in your life.

2. Express your gratitude to God for His goodness and provision.

3. Thank Him for specific blessings that have touched your heart recently.

Wednesday: Praying for Others
"Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16

1. Take time to pray for the needs of your family, friends, and community.

2. Lift up specific requests for healing, comfort, and guidance.

3. Ask God to work through your prayers to bring about positive change.

Thursday: Seeking God's Will
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." - Matthew 6:10

1. Quiet your heart and seek God's presence in your prayer.

2. Ask God to reveal His will for your life and guide your decisions.

3. Pray for the strength to align your desires with His purpose.

Friday: Confession and Forgiveness
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

1. Reflect on any areas where you've fallen short or made mistakes.

2. Confess these sins to God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.

3. Meditate on the depth of God's grace and thank Him for His mercy.

Saturday: Gratitude for Creation
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." - Psalm 19:1

1. Spend time outdoors or visualize the beauty of creation.

2. Offer a prayer of gratitude for the wonders of the natural world.

3. Pray that Christians will take seriously the stewardship and care of the earth.

Sunday: Renewal of Faith
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

1. Reflect on your journey of faith and growth in Christ.

2. Pray for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit to renew your heart.

3. Ask for strength to continue following God's path with renewed commitment.

 My prayer for you this week is for this experience of prayer will be a source of inspiration and spiritual growth for you. Remember that prayer is a conversation with God, and He delights in hearing your heart's desires and concerns. As you use these prompts, open your heart to God's guidance as you become more confident with your relationship with Him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Step Away From The Lies


The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world. It is a renunciation of the lies we have been told about ourselves and our neighbors and our universe.
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 29

Have you ever stopped to think about the world we live in?

This world is filled with tons of messages that seek to shape who we are, what we believe, and how we see ourselves and others. Our constant exposure to media in all of its variety to the enticing whispers of advertisements, makes it feel like we're caught in a web of deceit.

And you know what?

These lies not only twist our perception of reality, but they also mess with our hearts. The messages we receive from the world of make us feel inadequate in our effort to follow Jesus and disconnected to God.

Let's not lose hope!

Peterson's wisdom, from his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, reminds us of the way forward. We need to take that intentional and bold step away from the deceptive narratives that surround us.

Yes, it starts with a choice. Picture it as turning away from the unhealthy and cancer causing food that have held you consumed for too long.

The Bible, provides many examples of people who have embraced this pivotal step.

One person is the prophet Isaiah, whose profound encounter with God is recounted in chapter 6 of the book that bears his name.

The vision Isaiah witnessed unfolded before him—a scene of God seated in Heaven on a throne, enveloped by spiritual beings. The sheer awesomeness of this revelation overwhelmed Isaiah, prompting him to exclaim:
“Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5, CSB)
Isaiah's response was profound in its authenticity. He confronted the truth about his own sin and acknowledged the shortcomings of all of Israel.

Rather than succumbing to despair, Isaiah took that crucial step towards God. He openly admitted his transgressions and laid them bare before God. In response, an angel purified his lips with a burning coal from the altar, declared:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your iniquity is removed
and your sin is atoned for. (Isaiah 6:7, CSB)
Isaiah's story reveals a fundamental truth: that first step toward God starts with breaking free from the world's lies.

It means throwing away those distorted beliefs we have about ourselves, our neighbors, the world we live in, and even God Himself. I won't lie—this process will probably involve facing uncomfortable truths about ourselves.

Like anything worth doing, this process is hard, but the result is worth it. That is why Eugene Peterson called this journey a long obedience in the same direction. It's the journey that involves repentance, change, obedience that moves us to forgive, serve, and love.

As we walk this path of faith, we need to draw inspiration from the trailblazers who've gone before us. We need to be like Isaiah and all those other heroes of faith who have chosen to step away from the shadows of deception. We need to let go of the chains and weights of deceptions that have held us back and embrace the truth that will ultimately set us free.

In this process it is crucial to remember: with every step we take, we're not alone.

The Holy Spirit walks beside us, using Scripture, our prayers, and the Church to guide us closer to the heart of God.

With this in mind let's step forward with unwavering obedience and trust, knowing that this journey is leading us to a deeper relationship with the One who loves us beyond measure.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Weekly Prayer Prompts: Be Grateful

Prayer is God’s gift to His people so we can connect with Him, seek His guidance, and find comfort in His presence. Each week, I will provide you with prayer prompts to help you to be more intentional with your prayer time as you seek to follow Jesus. Set aside some quiet time, find a comfortable place, and let these prompts assist you in your prayer time

Monday: Gratitude and Praise
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." - Psalm 100:4

1. Begin your prayer by listing five things you're grateful for today.
2. Reflect on God's goodness in your life and offer Him sincere praise.
3. Thank God for specific blessings you might have taken for granted.

Tuesday: Seeking Forgiveness
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

1. Spend time in self-reflection, acknowledging any areas where you've fallen short.
2. Ask God for forgiveness and strength to overcome your shortcomings.
3. Pray for the wisdom to make amends with those you might have hurt.

Wednesday: Intercession for Others
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people." - 1 Timothy 2:1

1. Create a list of people who need your prayers—family, friends, colleagues, global issues, etc.
2. Lift up each person or situation in prayer, asking for God's guidance, healing, and comfort.
3. Pray for those who may be struggling with faith, that they may find strength in God.

Thursday: Surrendering Control
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

1. Reflect on areas of your life where you're holding onto control.
2. Pray for the faith to surrender those areas to God's will.
3. Ask for God's guidance in making decisions and seeking His plan.

Friday: Strength in Difficult Times
"I can do all things through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

1. Think about a current challenge you're facing and bring it to God in prayer.
2. Ask for strength, courage, and resilience to navigate through the difficulty.
3. Trust in God's promise that He is with you every step of the way.

Saturday: Growing in Faith
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7

1. Pray for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
2. Ask for a thirst for His Word and a hunger to know Him better.
3. Seek opportunities to serve and grow within your faith community.

Sunday: Communion with God
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." - Matthew 6:7

1. Pray for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
2. Ask for a thirst for His Word and a hunger to know Him better.
3. Seek opportunities to serve and grow within your faith community. 

I hope these prayer prompts are helpful as seek to be more consistent in your prayer life. Remember, prayer is a personal and heartfelt conversation with God. Use these prompts as a starting point, but you need to give room to let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and words. May your journey of faith be strengthened as you seek God's presence through prayer. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Cling to Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 (CSB)
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The Apostle Peter wrote the book we know as 1 Peter to encourage and strengthen the persecuted Christians who were dispersed throughout various provinces in the Roman Empire. In this passage, 1 Peter 1:6-9, Peter taught about the importance of enduring trials in order to strengthen our faith and receive the ultimate reward of salvation.

Peter began by acknowledging that the trials we face in life can be difficult and painful, which often causes us to feel grief and sorrow. However, in spite of these trials it is important for us to rejoice because we know God will not waste our pain. Instead, God will use them for our benefit and growth. Through our trials, Peter wrote, our faith is tested and refined, just like gold is refined by fire. This refining process strengthens our character and prepares us for life in the Kingdom.

It's important to note that Peter didn’t say that suffering is optional for Christians. In fact, he wrote that trials are "necessary" for our growth and development. This is difficult to hear, especially when we're in the midst of a particularly when we are growing though a trial. However, it's crucial to remember that God is able to use all our experiences, good and bad, to form us in the image of Jesus.

Peter goes on to say that faith refined by the fire of trials and hardships is more valuable than gold. While gold is precious and desired for many purpose, including jewelry and money, it is still perishable and can be destroyed. Our faith, on the other hand, is eternal and cannot be taken away from us. It is through our faith that we receive salvation. This salvation, and eternal relationship with God, is the most important goal of our lives.

It is interesting that Peter acknowledged the reality that we have not physically seen Jesus, but that reality hasn’t stopped us from trusting and loving him. Our faith is not based on our physical interaction with Jesus, but on the truth taught to us, the example of other Christians, and the difference following Jesus made in our lives. This faith brings us both joy and hope, even in the midst of our trials.

It's important to note that Peter doesn’t say that we should be happy about our trials themselves. Instead, he encouraged us to find joy God’s love as He uses our trials to refine our faith and form us in the image of Jesus. This joy is not a surface-level happiness that comes and goes with our circumstances, rather it is a deep and abiding sense of peace that comes from knowing that we are loved and cared for by our Heavenly Father.

1 Peter 1:6-9 teaches us that our trials serve a greater purpose in our lives. They are not meaningless or purposeless, but are opportunities for us to grow and develop as Christians. As we endure  the trials of life with faith and perseverance, we can trust that God is using them to refine our character and to strengthen our hope. We should rejoice, even in the midst of our suffering, knowing that God is with us and working all things together for our good.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Creating a Morning Routine


A morning routine can be a game-changer when it comes to starting your day off on the right foot. Many successful people swear by having a consistent routine that helps guide the start of the day. I have also discovered that a morning routine helps me make room in my day for spiritual disciplines

But what exactly are the benefits of having a morning routine, and why is it so important?

Having a consistent morning routine can provide numerous benefits to your mental and physical well-being. Here are just a few of them:
  1. Sets the Tone for the Day — Starting your day off with a consistent routine helps to set the tone for the rest of the day. When you have a set routine that you follow every morning, it gives you a sense of control and structure. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and create a sense of calm and focus.
  2. Boosts Productivity — When you have a morning routine, you start your day with intention and purpose. This can help to boost productivity and increase your overall effectiveness throughout the day. By starting your day off with tasks that are important to you, you can create momentum that carries you through the rest of your day.
  3. Improves Mental Health — A morning routine can also be beneficial for your mental health. When you have a set routine, it can help to reduce anxiety and stress. Taking time for yourself in the morning can also help you feel more centered and grounded. This can help you to start your day with a positive attitude and increase your overall well-being.
  4. Creates Consistency — Consistency is key when it comes to creating habits that stick. By establishing a morning routine, you can create consistency in your life. This consistency can help you to feel more in control of your life and can help you to establish other healthy habits throughout your day.
  5. Increases Energy — A morning routine can help to increase your energy levels. When you start your day with healthy habits, such as exercise, meditation, or a healthy breakfast, it can help to give you a boost of energy that lasts throughout the day. This can help you to feel more alert and focused and can improve your overall productivity and well-being.
Having a morning routine can be an important tool in helping us be good stewards of the life God has given us. So how do we go about creating one?

Here are some tips for creating a morning routine that works for you:
  1. Start with your ideal wake-up time — Decide what time you want to wake up each morning and plan your routine around that.
  2. Include activities that energize you — Consider including activities like walking, weight lifting, yoga, or body weight exercises - anything that helps you feel energized and focused.
  3. Plan for what needs to be done — Think about the things you need to do to get ready for the day, like taking a shower, eating breakfast, and brushing your teeth. These activities are a normal part of the morning, but they need to be scheduled, otherwise, the routine will feel hurried and unhelpful.
  4. Make time for spiritual formation — Consider what disciplines would be beneficial to do on a daily basis and would get the day started on the right foot. Disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, singing worship music, meditation, or journaling. These activities can help you focus the day on God.
  5. Be consistent — Stick to your morning routine as much as possible, even on weekends. This will help you create a habit and reap the full benefits of a consistent routine.
  6. Be flexible — Be open to adjusting your routine as needed. Life is unpredictable, so be willing to make changes when necessary.
Establishing a morning routine can be a game-changer for a productive and fulfilling day, and it can also contribute to our spiritual growth. By investing some time and effort into creating a personalized routine, we can cultivate a sense of purpose, energy, focus, and spiritual connectedness.

To make the most of this habit, it's important to maintain a balance of consistency and flexibility, and to prioritize activities that align with our well-being and values. As good stewards of our time, we can leverage the power of a morning routine to enhance our lives and make progress towards our goals.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Beyond Feelings and Intentions

In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard wrote:

One of the greatest deceptions in the practice of the Christian religion is the idea that all that really matters is our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions. It is this mistake about the psychology of the human being that more than anything else divorces salvation from life, leaving us a headful of vital truths about God and a body unable to fend off sin. (p. 152)
This quote highlights a common mistake among Christians: the belief that our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions are all that matter in our relationship with God. This idea leads to a twisted view of salvation, one that emphasizes knowledge and feeling over action and change, which leaves us stunted in our spiritual formation.

To truly live as disciples of Jesus, we need a discipleship that integrates our thoughts, emotions, and actions. The spiritual formation that is to happen in our minds and hearts must be reflected in the way we live and interact with the world around us.

I think it is crucial to remember that ongoing spiritual formation requires both a change of mind and a change of behavior. Repentance leads to a change of mind which motivates a change of behavior which leads to a renewed repentance that flows into a changed mind which results in a change of behavior. And this cycle keeps us moving forward in our spiritual formation.

One crucial part in this process is the practice of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are intentional habits and practices that help us align our minds and hearts with God's will. Disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, and solitude, allow us to train our minds to focus on God's truth and our hearts to respond in obedience.

However, spiritual disciplines alone are not enough. We also need to cultivate a lifestyle of service and selflessness. As Jesus himself said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; NLT)

To deny ourselves means that we put aside our own desires and preferences so we can love God and love our neighbor. We know that we maturing in our discipleship as it becomes second nature for us to love.

Ultimately, our salvation is not just a matter of intellectual understanding or emotional experience; it is a transformation of our whole being. As Willard writes, "Salvation is not just a matter of being saved from our sins; it is a matter of being saved to be the kind of person who naturally does the good and right thing" (p. 153).

We need to reject the belief that our feelings and intentions are all that matter in our spiritual formation. Instead, let us embrace a discipleship that integrates our thoughts, emotions, and actions in pursuit of God's will. This is how we become the people God created us to be.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Philippians: Reaching Forward for God’s Goal


STOP — Philippians 3:11-4:1


Paul’s goal was to experience the resurrection of Jesus. After he explained his lofty goal Paul wanted to make sure the Philippians wasn’t saying he had achieved it. He considered himself still in progress, forgetting his past and moving for forward. This is the attitude Christians should have in discipleship, to not believe you have attained it, but to keep making progress towards maturity. Part of it progress is following the example of those who have more mature than we are. This is important to have good examples because there are false teachers who are motivated by their flesh rather than the spirit. Instead, Christians should remember that their citizenship is in heaven and that they have their hope is in the Resurrection and when Jesus returns to make everything right.


Be intentional about spiritual maturity.


  1. Paul is not passive in his spiritual formation. He said he made every effort to take hold of the resurrection life that was available to him. His motivation was because of the love Jesus had showed him.
  2. We are not to be held back by our past. God has forgiven us, and so we need to move on from the sins we have done. We do that by focusing on the hope that we have in Jesus. The promise of resurrection, justice, and restoration provide us with hope to keep moving forward with Jesus.
  3. It is crucial to have examples of faith in our lives. Paul urged the Philippians to follow his example. Seeing something done is much more helpful than just reading about how something is done. Real life examples help us to know that a life of faith is possible and provides us with ideas of how we are to respond to the various issues that come up in our lives.
  4. We need to be on our guard against false teachers. These false teachers are more concerned with life in this world and meeting the needs of the flesh than they are about Jesus and his kingdom. This is why it is crucial that we have good solid people that we can look to and who can encourage us through life.
  5. We are citizens, first and foremost, of heaven. This means Jesus and his kingdom are to have our allegiance and loyalty above all else. United States citizenship is a distance second to the reality that We are citizens of heaven, and this should be seen in our actions.
  6. Jesus will return and transform us into the people God created us to be. People who are led by the Spirit rather than the flesh. This is our hope, to be conformed to the image of Jesus.


Father, transform my hope so I long for the coming of Your Kingdom and resurrection of Your people. May I continue on the path of spiritual formation until that day arrives.

Tomorrow: Philippians 4:2-9

Monday, February 6, 2023

Philippians: Continued Prayers

STOP — Philippians 1:7-11

Paul continued to explain to the Philippians why he is grateful for them and why he has so much affection towards them. They have partnered with him through out his ministry, including his imprisonment. Paul let them know that his pray for them is for their love will grow through the wisdom and discernment that God gives. They need this so they can be spiritually mature and ready for the return of Jesus.

It is crucial we continue on with spiritual formation so we can be ready for the return of Jesus.

  1. Relationships are very important. Apparently, Paul was held in high regard in Philippi and they had helped him throughout his ministry. Paul was touched by there care and generosity and he admired their faith in proclaiming the Gospel. Both Paul and the Philippians valued the relationship they had with each other.
  2. The Philippians responded to the Gospel, not only by receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but also dedicating their lives to proclaiming the Gospel. Part of the dedication is seen in their support of Paul and his ministry.
  3. Paul not only prayed for the Philippians, but he let them know what his prayer was for them. He prayed that they would experience spiritual formation as their love grew. This growth was due to an increased wisdom, understanding, and discernment about who God is and His will for their lives.
  4. The way we can be filled with righteousness is to have our love for God and people grow. We cannot grow in righteousness if we are not growing in love.
Heavenly Father, may Paul’s prayer for the Philippians be true for me. I want my love to grow as the result of having a better understanding of your truth.

Tomorrow: Philippians 1:12-20

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Philippians: Greetings and Prayer

STOP — Philippians 1:1-6

Paul, along with his student Timothy, wrote a letter to the church they helped start in the city of Philippi. It is addressed to all the saints in the city, including the recognized leaders of the church. Paul told them that he thanked God for them and was joyful because of them. Not only did Paul have fond memories of them, but he was grateful for their help in proclaiming the gospel. He encouraged them by reminding them that God would mature their faith so they would be ready for the return of Jesus.

Philippians 1:6 (CSB) I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

  1. Paul identifies himself and Timothy as servants of Jesus. This means Paul realizes that he is not doing his work, but he is doing the work of Jesus. Paul saw himself under the will and authority of Jesus.
  2. Saints in Christ Jesus are anyone who has placed their trust in Jesus. Saints are God’s holy people. Overseers and deacons are those who have been set apart by the church to do the work of the church.
  3. Grace (the common Greek greeting) and peace (the common Jewish greeting) come from one sources: God through Jesus. Paul is not just offering them cultural niceties, but he is giving them a blessing that comes from God. He wants the Philippians to experience grace and peace.
  4. Paul, and Timothy, had history with the Philippians. There would have been good reason for Paul to thank God for the Philippians because they had showed him kindness.
  5. There is joy Paul when he thinks about the Philippians, not only because of their kindness, but because they had been at work to proclaim the Gospel. They supported Paul in his ministry in Philippi, they had continued to follow his example, and they supported him in is teaching ministry/mission work. Even during his time in prison.
  6. Paul knew that the Philippians, for all the things they were doing well, still needed to grow in their faith. He wanted to reminded them that the work of spiritual formation/discipleship was not entirely on their shoulders, God would carry on that work, so they could be ready for the return of Jesus.

Father in Heaven, help me to be like Paul, who was concerned with the spiritual well being of those who he taught and led. May I remember that it isn’t just about what I say and do, but it is also about trusting You to continue to work in their hearts and minds.

Tomorrow: Philippians 1:7-11

Monday, January 16, 2023

Our Purpose and Our Healing

God created humans to bear His image. To bear God's image means that we are to demonstrate God's character: His love, grace, mercy, and kindness in the world around us.

How do we do that?

It starts with love. Jesus taught that our greatest responsibility is to love God and to love people.
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37-40; CSB)

The best way we can live this life of love is to be kind and caring to those around us. In a word we are to serve. Serving is the foundation of the purpose that God created us to do.

It is logical that our purpose is wrapped up in serving others, but it doesn't make sense that our healing is too?

In fact, it seems contradictory to say our healing and our wholeness are found in giving our lives away. 

Conventional wisdom teaches that we need to take care of ourselves first before we have the capacity to help other people. Some Christians even teach that we need to love ourselves before we can truly love others. 

The truth that our healing is found in giving ourselves away is another example of the upside down nature of the Gospel. Wholeness is found in sacrifice and healing is found in serving others.

One of the reasons why our healing is found in serving is because we are are broken by our sin and selfishness, which leads to broken relationships. Our sin has led to a damaged relationship with God which leads to a damaged relationship with other people. Since we are created to live in relationships, to have damaged relationships means we cannot be the people God created us to be.

We lack wholeness when our relationships are not what they should be.

So how do we build relationships? 

It begins with reaching out to people in love. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught:
Matthew 5:23-24 (CSB)
“So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
We are to take the initiative for reconciliation happen. Even if we have been wronged it is up to us to do what needs to be done to make things right. There is no guarantee that broken relationships will be repaired, but our relationships will remain broken if we do nothing. We find healing and wholeness when we do what is in our power to make things right in a relationship.

Not only do we need to reach out to people in love, but we also have to stop following our flesh. Paul gave the Galatians this warning:
Galatians 5:13-15 (CSB)
For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
Our flesh will lead us to be selfish, which in turns destroys relationships and holds us back from pursuing our purpose to love. To find wholeness and healing we need to be led by the Spirit. How do we know when we are led by the Spirit? We know the Spirit is leading when we experience the desire to help, serve, forgive, and encourage people. 

In our journey to become the people that God created us to be we need to know what we can do, those things that are under our control. How we follow Jesus is under our control and that is what I focused on here. There are times in our pursuit of wholeness when we need more help. This is when we should get counseling. A good counselor will help you to find the path of healing that you need.

The thought I want to leave you with today is that healing isn’t discovered in more self-care, but it is found in reaching out to people in love. Healthy relationships have a healing effect on our lives.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Progress Not Perfection

 One of the things that I would like to share on the blog are my sermons, since they are the result of a significant amount of pondering each week.

This is the sermon that I preached on January 1, 2023.

A new year brings with it a hope of a new start. All of us have at least one area in our lives that we would like to see changed.

The issue we face is that we have failed in the past and we don’t know why now would be any different. Our hope of a new start quickly turns into discouragement.

Thankfully, God isn’t after our perfection, but our progress. Our faithfulness to Jesus is seen in our continual transformation day by day and year by year.

Text: Philippians 3:12-14
Bottom Line: Our faith helps us make progress in our journey to become more like Jesus.
Challenge: Write down one goal for your spiritual formation and think of the step needed to accomplish it.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Prayer is Essential to Change

The world that we live in is not what it should be. On a daily basis we are saddened to hear about the murders, disasters, wars, and other tragedies that dominate our headlines. 

Even though we are saddened, we know that there is little that we dan do to change the major issues that face the world. So what are we to do?

As cliché as it might sound, we who follow Jesus are called to pray. It is through prayer that we experience change.

The reality is that we have very little control over what goes on in this world, but what we do have control over is how we live. While we our actions may not result in world peace or solve world hunger or diminish crime in our communities, our choice to love, to forgive, and to serve can have a huge impact on those around us.

Here is the issue, we are not naturally loving, forgiving, or merciful. We tend to be selfish, prideful, and untrustworthy. In other words, we contribute to the problems in the world, rather than doing what we can do to relieve the issues in our part of the world.

This is why change is crucial.

If all our failed attempts to change have taught us anything, it is that we need help to change. We can’t change on our own, especially in ways that make this world a better place.

Ephesians 3:14-18 (NLT)
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Paul’s prayer for the people who received his letter was that they would  receive what they needed, that they would be strengthened and experience God, and that they would have a knowledge of God’s love. This was a prayer for the Ephesians to experience transformation. A transformation that allows them to know and experience God in a new way.

This is a transformation that cannot happen apart from God working in our lives. The deep work that needs to happen in our hearts and minds can only be done through the work of the Spirit. Without prayer and surrendering our wills this transformation is not going to happen.

While it is important for us to pray for healing or friends, family, and acquaintances, it is equally important for us to pray prayers similar to Paul’s for ourselves and our church families. Without God’s work, change will not happen.

Make prayer an essential part of your spiritual formation.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Don’t Neglect to Train


Practice makes perfect.

This old saying reminds us of a basic truth: In order to do things well we need to learn how to do them.

This is a process that takes time. The repetition that happens through practice is essential for learning fundamentals and building muscle memory. Both are needed to make a new skill become like second nature in our lives.

If we are going to do something well we have practice doing it.

A musician needs to learn how to read music, to play scales, and to keep time before any actual music can even be played. Even then hours of practice are required to play a piece of music well.

A basketball player needs to learn how to dribble, pass, and shoot so he can play with other players. After that hours of practicing the game is needed before an actual game can be played so that both player and team play well.

Practice is a universal law governing how we improve a skill or a talent.

Since this is the case, why have we overlooked the importance of practice when it comes to our spiritual development?

Perhaps it is because we don’t want to be accused of doing “works” to earn our salvation.

Perhaps it is because we don’t have a coach, teacher, or mentor guiding us through what we need to do.

Whatever the reason, we have neglected the development of our spirits.

C. E. Orr in his book How to Live a Holy Life wrote:

One of the main problems for American Christians today is an understanding of spiritual formation. They have confessed their sin, repented, declared their faith in Jesus, and have been baptized, but then they have been abandoned to figure things out for themselves.

The American church lacks true discipleship.

Reflect on what the apostle Paul told Timothy:

Paul reminded Timothy not to waste his life in doing things that did not matter. Timothy could spend his life arguing against the silly myths of the day, which would take time but ultimately would be ineffective and a waste of his time.

Timothy could also devote his time to healthy living and exercise, which would benefit the body, but would have minimal impact on his spiritual formation.

Instead Paul told him to train for godliness.

How do we do that?

If we approach our spiritual formation in Jesus like we approach training and practice in other areas, like music and sports, then I think we can see two commitments we must make.

First, we need to commit to spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are activities that God’s people have historically done to mature as people of faith. In fact, many of these disciplines are things that Jesus during his time on earth. These disciplines include activities such as Bible study, prayer, fasting, giving, and worship. These things are the equivalent of learning how to play a music scale or learning how to dribble a basketball. They are want teach your mind, heart, soul, and body how to act when faced with the realities of life.

Second, we need to commit to Christian duties. Duties are those things that God expects His people to do. They include things like serving people, forgiving those people who hurt us, sacrificing time and money to help make disciples, and standing up for what is right. These are not things that we do naturally or even enjoy doing, and that is why they become duties. When we do them, because of our love for God, they teach us humility and loving neighbor as ourselves. These duties are much like practice. They are boring, just like playing the same piece of music a thousand different times or going to basketball practice day after day and compete against the same people, but they help you get ready for the concert or game. When we make the choice to do these duties we are preparing to meet the unpredictable choices that we face in life.

If we are going to be like Jesus we need to train to be like him. This training is going to take a lot of hard work on our part and a lot of grace on God’s part, but working together transformation will take place.

We can be conformed into the image of Jesus!

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Discipled in the Way of Partisan Politics

 One of the basic truths that we need to remember is that everyone is going through a process of spiritual formation.

A big influence in spiritual formation is the information that we consume and what our minds think about. This is why the New Testament emphasizes our mind and thoughts.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phillippians 4:8; NLT) 

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. (Colossians 3:1-2; NLT)
Our minds play a major role in our discipleship. This is why we need to be intentional about what our minds think about.

We have access to a vast amount of information. All of our devices are designed as media consumption devices. 

As we consume media and as that information directs our thoughts and emotions, our spirits are being formed. 

This is the reason the world feels so divided now. Everything in life has become political. 

Politics deals with the best way to run the world. We come to believe that our side has the best way to run the world and the opposite side wants to destroy our way of life.

Making everything political has led us to live with fear and declaring everyone who doesn't agree with us as our enemy. 

In this environment, imagine what happens when the pastor says something that you don’t agree with?

Too often the pastor becomes the enemy. You can convince yourself that he has, at the very least, been influenced by the enemy, if not entirely in their camp. 

If you are able to see the pastor as an enemy, who is leading the church astray, leaving that Christian community behind is an easy thing to do.

The sad reality is that many Christians in the United States are being discipled, not in the way of Jesus, but in the way of partisan politics. It is hard to breakthrough this partisan barrier because people have convinced themselves that their politics are the politics of Jesus. 

Instead of consuming and meditating on cable news, podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter, we need to read and  meditate on the Bible. 

If we are going to be discipled in the way of Jesus, then we need to let Scripture challenge us in all the different areas of our lives. 

We can't allow our partisan political culture to be the greatest influence in spiritual formation. If we do, then we will end up looking just like the world.

That is not what God wants from our lives.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

What We Think About Most


On Thursday I wrote a post about being a persuader.

Last year I had a Barnes and Nobel gift card and one of the books I bought was Win Bigly by Scott Adams.

Win Bigly is a look at President Trump’s ability to persuade. Whether you like him or not (I personally do not support President Trump, but I am willing to admit he has done some good things).

After writing the post I Thursday I took Win Bigly off my shelf and flipped through it, looking at the  highlights I made. The above quote caught my eye.

In persuasion it is important to get people to think about things you have said. The more they think about what we say, the more it influences their thinking. 

This is why repetition is not a bad thing. When we repeat something there is a better chance of it getting lodge in the mind of someone. 

There is a secondary reason why I shared this quote with you. It reminds us that we need to be mindful of what we allow ourselves to think about.

Remember, the key to transforming our lives is changing the way we think:

Romans 12:2
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Changing our thinking is key to changing our behavior.

This is the reason that I am concerned about the person who shares only political posts on Facebook or the person who only talks about sports. This reveals that their thinking is dominated by “the behavior and customs of this world.”

One of the key disciplines that God’s people have practiced over the years is the discipline of meditation. In earlier times meditation was crucial because they did not have access to their own copy of Scripture. They had to rely on what was said during their times together, and then remember what was said.

In this way they were able to memorize God’s word and bury its wisdom in their hearts.

Because of our easy access to the Bible the practice of meditation has fallen by the wayside. We are content to get our daily Bible reading in so we can move on to the next thing on our agendas. In the process we are not really thinking about what we read and how it applies to our lives.

I have found it helpful to do a longer reading of Scripture (I have been reading the the New Testament in 90 days, which is about 3 chapters a day) and then a shorter reading, which is just a few verses. With the shorter passage I can take time to think about it, ask questions about it, and even pray it. That way it has a chance to become a part of  the way I think.

I challenge you these next few days to pay attention to what you are thinking about. 

Are your thoughts godly and loving? Are they based behaviors and customs of the world? How can you be more intentional in directing your thoughts to things that are good, noble, and pure (Philippians 4:8)?

Understanding persuasion can help us be better persuaders and it helps us to identify things that are working on us.

Be mindful of what you let persuade you.


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Mark of Maturity

Author Dallas Willard in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines wrote; “Here as always—whether in our natural life or in our spiritual life—the mark of disciplined persons is that they are able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.” (p. 151)

It is the disciplined person who is able to come through in the clutch and does not allow the pressure of the moment to rattle him/her from accomplishing what needs to be done.

It was the discipline of shooting thousands of baskets that enabled basketball legend Larry Bird to be such a great clutch performer. Without the hours of intense practice Bird would never have been able to hit as many last second shots as he did. It wasn’t about having good intentions, but it was about training his body to respond in a certain way, and that is what made it possible for him to be so great.

We understand the importance of discipline in the arenas of sports and music, but often we neglect it when it comes to living a life of faith. 

Somehow we have told ourselves that what matters are our good intentions, and if we are willing to follow Jesus then that is good enough. The problem is that when the chips are down and life is stacked against us we often fail. We can’t come through in the clutch because we have not trained our bodies to respond in the right way.

Let’s face it; many of us are undisciplined.

I would guarantee that if we examined the lives of people who are considered to have a mature faith one thing they all would have in common is discipline. Granted they may not call it discipline, but they would have certain activities that they were devoted to doing which expressed their commitment to Christ Jesus.

A verse that has come to mean a lot to me the past few years is Acts 2:42. In this verse Luke shares with us four activities that the earlier church devoted themselves to doing.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (ESV)
As the Church exploded on to the scene the Apostles made sure that the new Believers were involved in activities that would encourage these new disciples and would help them mature in their faith.

Being disciplined is essential if we are going to be mature disciples of Christ.

Consider what the apostle Paul wrote about who he lived his life:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; ESV)

Paul compared his walk with Christ to an athlete preparing to compete in the games. The athlete is disciplined in his/her practice so they are able to perform to the best of their ability and when the prize.

According to Paul, the athlete is an illustration for how we are to live our lives: we are to discipline our bodies and learn to control them.

Maturing in faith isn’t just a matter of knowing more or having the proper intentions. Rather, it is about training our bodies to respond to the good desires of our new hearts. We are to discipline our bodies so we can respond in love when others respond in hate, so we can respond with joy for another person’s success rather than being jealous, or so we can give generously rather than greedily horde what we have.

If we are going to live like Jesus, then we need to discipline our bodies to respond to the new heart He has given us.

Erwin McManus in his little book Stand Against the Wind wrote:
There is a process in our becoming all that God created us to be. This is the human side of divine change. Transformation is both the miracle of God and the stewardship of man. Godliness is a result of both divine activity and human action. God promises to do what we cannot do for ourselves, and He commands us to do that which He will not do for us. There is both miracle and responsibility. God entrusts us with His resources, and then He holds us accountable for what we do with them.” (p. 46)
Foundational to what I am saying is that our transformation and salvation are miracles of God. 

We cannot achieve true transformation, a total change of heart, without the initiative and action of God. That is where it all starts, and so I am not advocating some form of humanism here, but rather I want to point out that we have a responsibility to nurture and grow this wonderful gift that God has given to us.

To be disciplined means to be good stewards of the miracle of salvation God has done for us.

What disciplines do we need in our lives in order to be good stewards of the new life we have in Christ Jesus?

I think a good place to start, because it comes right out of the Bible, are the four activities of Acts 2:42.

 I want to point out that the third activity, the breaking of bread, means the Lord’s Supper. This is a debatable issue, but in my study I have come to believe that is what it the phrase means in this context. One of the reasons I want to emphasis this is because it is important for us to have a way to re-commit our lives to God’s Kingdom after we have stumbled and sinned.

If we are going to mature as disciples of Christ Jesus then it is essential that we have in our lives certain disciplines that help teach our bodies to live by faith.

This is why one of the marks of mature Christians is their commitment to certain activities that help them stay connected to Christ. If we are to follow their example then we need to have similar activities as a part of our lives.

Isn’t it about time that we live a disciplined life?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

After Thoughts Ep. 2: A Clearer Picture of Jesus

Who is Jesus?

One of the challenges for Christians is to have an accurate picture of Jesus. We tend to create Jesus in our own image, rather than allowing Jesus to mold us into his image.

In this episode I expand on my sermon, A Clearer Picture, as he looks a three portraits of Jesus found in Revelation.

Music is Eyes of Time by Danosongs


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Patience is Required

It is hard to be patient.

Our culture has trained us to be impatient. You and I expect to have things now.

Remember when the internet first started to become a thing?

There was the process of connecting through the phone line. Then websites and content took their sweet time to load. Streaming videos would not have been possible since the constant stopping and buffering would have been unbearable.

Now, we expect our internet experience to be instantaneous and smooth.

Our expectations have changed to the point that if images and videos don't load lighting quick we are moving on to something else.

Impatience isn't isolated to our online experience. It colors everything that we do.

It is one of the reasons why consumer debt is unbelievably high in the United States. We want what we want right now. We don't want to wait and save for it. With easy credit all we have to care about is, "What is the monthly payment?"

While impatience affects our lives in many different ways, one of the most impactful ways is in the area of discipleship.

"Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence  for mature Christian discipleship is slim...There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness."
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.16

We can be manipulated into have some sort of "religious experience" that makes us feel good. This is why feelings and emotional experiences are a poor foundation to build faith on. Once the feeling leaves and the experience fads into the past, it is easy to doubt God and wonder if any of it was really real in the first place.

True discipleship is a slow process.

It requires patience and a commitment to endure the ups and downs life throws our way.

The goal of discipleship is not an experience, feeling, or even acquiring all the right knowledge.

The goal is becoming holy.

I know holiness sounds rather dull and boring. Our pictures of holiness have to do with a life of strict discipline and quiet solitary life.

Let's face it. Satan has done a great job of turning what should be our greatest desire into something that we want to avoid.

I want to encourage you to think about holiness in this way: holiness is to live the life of Jesus.

Imagine living life with the compassion, mercy, wisdom, confidence, strength, and love of Jesus. 

Through discipleship we seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That takes time as we learn to be guided by the Spirit rather than the flesh and how to love God and people the way they need to be loved.

Discipleship doesn't happen over night and it takes faith, commitment, and work, but it does lead to a life of no regrets.

A life worth living is found on the road of discipleship.

Be patient and stay committed and you will discover the life God created you to live.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

How to Read the Bible: Design Patterns

One of the great gifts that God has given to His people is the Bible.

The Bible helps us understand who God is and what He desires for His creation. This means it is important for Christians to read, meditate, and live out Scripture.

One of the difficulties that we have when in it comes to reading the Bible is to see it as a unified Book. With all the different stories and types of literature we can be tempted to view the Bible as a hodge podge collection of writings that don't have a lot to do with each other.

God inspired the authors of the Bible to create a unified Story by using certain words, images, and themes that help link the various parts of the Bible together.

The design patterns of Scripture are something we can overlook when we are only reading short passages at a time.

To catch these patterns we have to read long sections at a time and then keep in mind things that seem to keep popping up. This skill takes work, and it helps to have some sort of teacher who is able to start pointing them out.

This is certainly a skill that the more you using, better you become at spotting the patterns.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...