Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Incarnate the Love of Christ - Care of the Earth

     The bible makes it clear that we are called to take care of the Earth that God has given us.  In Leviticus chapter 25, God's people are instructed to give both the land and animals a Sabbath.  They recognized the importance to let the land rest so as to restore nutrients and keep it healthy, along with not overworking their animals.  Just because you can endlessly work the land doesn't mean you should.  We tend to neglect the Earth, because it's inconvenient to take care of.  But in all reality, when we don't take proper care, it hurts us in the long run.  I mean, look at all the pollution around us.

     God created us to be stewards in the modern age.  Our position may be slightly different than the people of Israel, because many of us don't own cattle or cultivate the land.  But we are still called to take care of the earth through other means such as recycling or picking up trash.  The root of our desire to care for the Earth comes when we realize that it isn't ours to begin with. Psalm 95:5 states "The sea is His for he made it, and His hands formed the dry land."  It's all for God, not us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hear God's Word - Memorization

     What is the point of memorizing scripture in a day and age where we can google anything and have it almost instantly on our computer screen?  Well memorizing isn't about just being able to instantly quote the material.  It isn't even about just knowing a lot of things.  When we purposely memorize something, we are intentionally committing something to our hearts.  Our minds, without memorization, tend to just latch on to the latest attention-grabbing experience.  In most cases, this means we can forget scripture and remember the latest football game.  But when we intentionally memorize scripture, it is forever stored in our heart and cannot be pushed aside by everyday experiences.

     "Memorization is the process of continually remembering the words, truths and images God uses to shape us. memorization provides us with a store of learning, which can be accessed anywhere and anytime." - Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hear God's Word - Meditation

     Meditation isn't a discipline that is limited only to Eastern religions, but also rests at the core of Christianity.  It is an invitation to invite God to work in your life.  God is near, and clues to his presence have been seen since creation: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen..." Romans 1:20. The problem occurs when we don't stop and really see what is going on around us.  God is here, but sometimes we aren't looking.

     To meditate on a passage, slowly read the passage over and over.  Listen to the scripture, asking what God wants you to get out of it, and what is important.  Write down any questions you have.  Sometimes memorizing the passage makes it easier to repeat it in your mind over and over so that it resonates automatically.  Many times I like to find a key verse that sticks out and write down a paragraph about what it means to me.  When I actually write things down, it tends to stick in my memory more  prominently, and sometimes I even write it on a sticky note and put it on my desk so that I can read it every time I sit down.

     "Meditation is a long, ardent gaze at God, his work and his Word.  Slowing down and giving one's undivided attention to God lies at the core of Christian mediation." - Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hear God's Word - Devotional Reading

     In the early Church, many believers would have been illiterate, and even many of those who could read didn't have access to bibles.  Because of this, much of the early Church history is characterized by what is known as lectio divina (or devotional reading).  Lectio divina requires learning through means other than reading written words, much like how we understand what wind is because we feel it, or how we begin to comprehend snow by building snowmen and throwing snowballs.  The process of Lectio divina made a way to hear the Word read in church and apply it to their lives through five movements:

      1. Silencio - Simple slow down and become quiet and calm; prepared to hear the Word of God
      2. Lectio - This involved the actual reading of the scripture.  Read slowly and loudly letting the words
                        resonate in your heart, and if something happens to catch your attention, stop and ask God for
                        what he wants to reveal.
      3. Mediatio - Simply, meditate.  While reading the scripture a second time, savor the words.  Reflect on the
                            importance of what sticks out to you.
      4. Oratio - Respond through praying to God.  Enter into a personal dialogue with God after reading a third
                        time.  Talk with God about any feelings that arise from this passage.
      5. Contemplatio - Contemplate and rest.  Allow God to begin working on you in whatever he has shown
                                    through this passage.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hear God's Word - Bible Study

     Why is bible study important?  Well, first of all, this is one of the ways that we hear from God.  In the word, God has planted his love story for us, and with that his calling on our life.  If we really want to understand who God is, and who he created us to be, what better place to find it then in the word?  "Studying the scripture can equip, guide and reveal how to live in life-giving ways that deepen our friendship with God and others." - Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

     The book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, lists a few different approaches to studying the bible:
1. Artist method
     - Read a passage of scripture and ask yourself the following three questions:
          i. What speaks to my heart? then draw a heart next to that scripture
          ii. What new thought or idea comes to me?  then draw a lightbulb
          iii. What does Scripture move me to do? then draw a hand
2. Detective method
     - Read a short passage from one of the Gospels, then play "detective"
     - Ask who, when, where and what questions
     - Dig deeper into the passage and really understand what is going on in the minds and words of the writer(s)
3. Treasure-seeker Method
     - This very simply looks at a passage and says: What idea, commandment, or promise can I find?
     - This tends to bring different results to different people, because everyone finds their own meaning to verses.
4. Jesus' apprentice method
     -  Choose one of the Gospels (Mark of Luke) and just follow Jesus' life looking for what seems important
          - How does Christ live His life?
          - What is important to Christ?
          - How can I become more like Him?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Share My Life With Others - Witness

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
     As I've been working on my research paper this week, I've been reading many accounts of eye-witnesses to the shooting of JFK.  These witnesses share the truth with those who did not get to see this event, or who do not know what happened.  In the same way, we are meant to be witnesses of the Truth that is the love of Christ.  We are called to bring people into knowing Christ by testifying to what we have seen him do in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.  What would be the end result if no witnesses would step forth for a murder? Well the murderer would walk free, and evil would continue to happen by his hands.  I guess when you think of it that way, you have to think about this: What if I don't witness to God's hand in my life?  What will happen to others?...

     Now don't think that it is our job to convert ever single person we meet...if we try to do that, we will burn out..fast.  Our job is to be a living testimony and "plant the seed".  For Paul writes: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." in Corinthians 3:6.  You see, God is the one who draws people closer to Him, but he wants us to be involved and be part of that process.  That's why Nazarenes consider it very important to live a holy lifestyle, so that our very lifestyle becomes a witness and testimony to our love for God, and for his greatness.

     "Desire: to reveal the life-changing love of Jesus to others." - Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Share My Life With Others - Unity

     This is a topic that has always been dear to my heart.  Unity is a HUGE issue in the church today.  I mean how many times have you heard rumors flying around the church?  I know I have.  Even the smallest little bits of gossip can effectively destroy what may have become a very prosperous ministry.  Think about it this way: the Church is the body of Christ.  What good would it be if the hands wanted to do something different than what the eyes were focused on?  It would be almost impossible.  And what if the feet walked in the opposite direction of what the hands were grasping tightly too?  In the same way, disunity in ministry can be disastrous.  We can literally tear apart a beautiful ministry all because we want to do "our thing" or we are sure that we know what is best.

     While all this is important to realize, realize that we are also called into "oneness" or unity with God himself.  When we dive into God's word and His will for our lives, we  "share in God's DNA of love" (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).  We begin to realize the strength we have when we work in unity with God and his kingdom.  When we bring disruption to the unity God intended for the family of Christ, it grieves Him.  At the same time though, some may argue that the church is divided through denominations and ritualistic differences.  Yea, that's true...but here's the thing...God is bigger than anything.  Our simple divisive attitudes will not stop God from proclaiming his kingdom.  The gates of hell cannot withstand God's might.  But just think, if we were working together as one large Church, or body of Christ, the hands would become more effective, and the feet would know just where to walk.  The body would enter into a time of great productivity, and the Church as a whole would bring many people to know Christ in numbers never before seen.

     "The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind -- Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. " (John 17:21)