7 Keywords for 2012

As we began the new year, I started thinking about some keywords for the year. Here are some keywords that I hope will shape (and describe!) me this year …

  • Passionate
  • Hungry
  • Disciplined
  • Unsatisfied
  • Teachable
  • Obedient
  • Tenacious

Interestingly, these keywords are also forming the basis of the first sermon series of the new year at Centre Grove, a series called “Pieces of the Puzzle.” We’re all unfinished puzzles, works in progress. There are some important pieces that we need to put in place in order to become all that God wants us to be. These are several pieces that I think are critical to our growth.

So far, I’ve talked about passion and hunger, which are very similar. Next up is discipline (as in self-discipline or self-leadership). I’m still settling on the remaining pieces, but they could very well be the ones I’ve listed above.

As 2012 gets underway, what are some of your keywords for the year?

Developing the Discipline of Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. For followers of Jesus, giving thanks is an essential discipline!

A couple passages of Scripture come to mind: 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 and Philippians 4.4-6.

This is our first post in the current Common English Bible Tour, so here are the verses in the Common English Bible

Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. (Philippians 4.4-6)

Great advice. Great words to live by. Sounds simple. But a challenging discipline to develop. There are no shortcuts to developing this discipline, just lotoffend lots of practice!

Earnestly Striving After Perfection

Christian perfection was a core value for John Wesley and the early Methodists. Christian perfection was ultimately about loving God and neighbors. Joel Green points out in Reading Scripture as Wesleyans, which I blogged about yesterday, that …

Wesley read Scripture with this aim in mind: to nurture love of God and love of neighbor. In the end, this is the theological context within which he practices biblical interpretation. (112)

This value carried over into the questions that ordinands have been asked for more than two centuries, which I posted a couple months ago (see also the follow-up post with the questions from 1784). After the first question (“Have you faith in Christ?”), the next three questions address Christian perfection. Question 2 asks, “Are you going on to perfection?” Question 3 follows up with, “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?” And question 4 asks, “Are you earnestly striving after it?” (the original question was, “Are you groaning after it?”).

One could answer the first two questions fairly easily, but the third question leaves little wiggle room. The only way we will go on to perfection in love is by earnestly striving after it, by being intentional and disciplined in our pursuit of it.

In reflecting on these questions, my mind goes to Philippians 3 where the apostle Paul lists, and then writes off, his accomplishments. He adds …

12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. 15 So, all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way … (3.12-15, CEB)

That’s the attitude of one earnestly striving after perfection in love!

Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Are you earnestly striving after it?

“Reading Scripture as Wesleyans”

I just finished another book that I’m reading before ordination (see 75 Days of Preparation for Ordination). Reading Scripture as Wesleyans by Joel B. Green (now at Fuller Theological Seminary, formerly at Asbury) is described as “ideal for use with the Wesley Study Bible.”

I enjoyed reading this book. It takes a look at how Wesley used a number of different New Testament books in his sermons, which also provides a Wesleyan view of Scripture.

Here are some statements I highlighted …

There is only one church. So words addressed to God’s people in the first century are actually addressed to the whole people of God, everywhere and at all times. (3)

In discussing Wesley’s use of Matthew, Green points out a “hallmark of Wesleyan faith” …

Becoming Christian is not simply an event in the past; rather, one ‘becomes’ Christian through ongoing formation of heart and life in ways that reflect the image of Christ. (11)

I’ve used orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (right action), and I’ve used orthopathy (right passion) (similar to Green’s use of orthokardia, right heart), so I love this statement …

… neither orthodoxy (‘right doctrine’) nor orthopraxy (‘right action’) can substitute for orthokardia (‘right heart’). (22)

Besides discussing Wesley’s use of Scripture, the book also gives a nice overview/summary of some of the New Testament books. For example, on Luke’s writings (his Gospel and Acts), Green notes …

… the account of Jesus’ suffering and death comprises some 25 percent of the Gospel, so Paul’s arrest and trials account for some 25 percent of Acts. … Taken together, the writings of Luke comprise the single largest contribution to the New Testament (28 percent of the whole). (63)

On Hebrews …

For Hebrews as for Wesley, salvation was not merely a fixed point in the past but an ongoing pilgrimage as one moves forward to maturity in the faith. (105)

Jesus thus walked faithfully the path of obedience to God and blazed the trail of holy living that others might follow. (108)

I love this statement …

Moving on in the journey of salvation is nonnegotiable. Not to move on is to fall away. (109)

Green does a nice job discussing how our practices form us …

Christians engage in such practices because of their allegiance to Christ, and their engagement in those practices forms them more fully in their allegiance to Christ. (114)

On “testing” and “temptation” …

The paradox, which we find in both James ad 1 Peter, is that the very process that can lead to growth in faith and faithfulness toward God (that is, ‘testing’) can also lead to loss of faithfulness, even falling away from faith (that is, ‘temptation’) (121). … It is a ‘trial’ (that leads to maturation) when believers respond to it appropriately, with joy; but it is a ‘temptation’ (that leads to death) when believers respond to it inappropriately, out of their own evil inclinations. (122)

Finally, a couple quotes from Green’s treatment of Revelation …

… the basic Christian response to which John calls his readers is nothing less (and nothing more) than ongoing, stubborn allegiance to the kingdom of God. (165)

Indeed, what a remarkable scene John has given us—not in order to feed curiosity or nurture speculation about the end, but in order to cultivate hope in the God who will set hings right, and to call for present responses of faithfulness and praise. (171)

Good stuff!

Lenten Prayer Guide 6.0

At West Side, we handed out prayer guides each Sunday during Lent. Here’s the final one for use during Holy Week (see the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth guides).

Lenten Prayer Guide

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” (John 12:27a)

Ask God in prayer:
What have I been avoiding in life?
What have I been avoiding in prayer?
Who have I been avoiding?
What has God been asking me to do that I have been afraid of and not wanting to listen, but I can still hear?
Is there something in my life that keeps me from praying or approaching God or worshiping?

If there’s something troubling your heart and you can’t name it, cry out to God and share your emotion with him. Your spirit can communicate with his Spirit without words. (Romans 8:26)

No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27b-28a)

Just like Jesus, it is in prayer we find the courage and the confidence to face the hard things in life. And we know that God has the final say and he will be glorified!

… for God’s direction and his courage and confidence.
… that I rely upon God and God alone in this situation.
… that God be glorified in the midst of this situation.
… that I be surrendered to God’s will and that God gives me his peace.

Philip Yancey says that for Jesus, in time of testing and conflict, prayer was the battle itself. “Prayer mattered that much.” Haddon Robinson asks where was it that Jesus sweat great drops of blood. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7).

Had I been there … I might have said, “what will he do when he faces a real crisis? Why can’t he approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of his three sleeping friends?” Yet, when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with courage, and his three friends fell apart and fell away.

Lenten Prayer Guide 5.0

At West Side, we’ve been handing out prayer guides to use during Lent (see the first, second, third, and fourth guides).

Lenten Prayer Guide

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8)

  • Thank God for this day.
  • Give this day to God. Ask for his guidance throughout this day.
  • Tell God you trust him; you trust him with this day, with your life, with the lives of your loved ones.
  • Ask the Lord to show you his unfailing love. (Where do you need to see God’s unfailing love? In what situation? In what relationship?)

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10)

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. (Psalm 24:4)

  • What/who do I trust more than God? (What are my idols?)
  • “Forgive me, Lord. Purify me. Help me to learn to trust in you and you alone.”

… trusts God who justifies the ungodly … (Romans 4:5)

… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

  • Thank God for his salvation, a salvation in which you can trust.

In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. (Psalm 22:4)

  • Remember God’s faithfulness in the past: his faithfulness to our biblical ancestors, to your family, to you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Lenten Prayer Guide 4.0

Today at West Side, we began using the fourth Lenten Prayer Guide (check out the previous ones: first, second, third).

Lenten Prayer Guide

27 … Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:32-43

The Scriptures seem to presume that we all have enemies. Who are your enemies? Who are those who cause you hardship? Who dislike you? Who seek to cause you injury? Who are those who use you, abuse you, undermine you, slander, mistreat, misrepresent you?

Repent to God in prayer if you have been an enemy to another. Seek reconciliation with the other.

Pray for God to give you love for your enemy. Loving your enemy, doesn’t mean you agree with their behavior.

Pray for your enemy. See them as someone God loves: someone God is drawing into relationship with him; someone who is already a child of God. Pray for healing in their life. Bonhoeffer: In prayer, we go to the enemy and stand by his/her side and plead for him/her to God.

Bless your enemy. Pray that God will bless them. Speak well of your enemy to others.

Do good to your enemy. Pray God will give you opportunity to actively do good for the other. Always be civil. Allow time for God’s grace to work in their life.

Loving and praying for our enemy is a choice we make. And God will help us make the right choices, as we pray for our enemies. People may act toward us in ways exhibiting they are our enemy. But is our responsibility to respond in ways that express that we are NOT their enemy.

Lenten Prayer Guide 3.0

I’m catching up with the weekly prayer guides that we’re using with our weekly sermon series and small group studies at West Side during Lent. In the last two days, I’ve posted the first and second Lenten Prayer Guides (from now on, each new guide will be posted on Sundays for the remainder of Lent).

Lenten Prayer Guide

Many times we go through difficult times or struggle with unanswered prayer. We feel forsaken. And we like the psalmist cry out to God:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? Look on me and answer, LORD my God. (Psalm 13)

A friend of Bill Hybels says aptly: If the request is wrong, God says, “No.” If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.” If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.” But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, “Go!”

Pray: God help me to recognize and accept your answers of “No,” “Slow,” or “Grow.” Bring understanding, if possible. Or help me to just blindly trust that you know all and you have my best interests in mind. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Recall a time in the past when God said, “No” or “Slow” and it was hard for you, but in hindsight you know it was the right answer.

Pray: Lord, help me grow.
What have a substituted for prayer in my life?
Where do I have unconfessed sin? (Isaiah 59:2)
What relationship conflict is hindering my relationship with you? (Matthew 5:23-24)
Where are my requests selfish/self-centered and uncaring toward others? (James 4:3; Proverbs 21:13)
In the midst of lacking faith, I recall your faithfulness in the past. (James 1:5-8)

Let us again pray with confidence with the psalmist:

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13)

Lenten Prayer Guide 2.0

Yesterday, I posted the first Lenten Prayer Guide (I will post this week’s guide tomorrow, then each week’s guide on Sundays beginning with this coming Sunday).

Lenten Prayer Guide

Almighty God, your blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations. And, as you know the weakness of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Where am I tempted? What are my weaknesses? What are my secret sins?

What Scripture can give me strength in my time of weakness?

Who can I confide in; who will be a support, an encourager, and hold me accountable as I face the reality of this temptation in my life?

Lenten Prayer Guide 1.0

During Lent at West Side, the sermon series and small group studies are focusing on prayer. We’re looking at some of the prayers that Jesus prayed, especially during his final week.

I’m providing a prayer guide each week during Lent and encouraging everyone to set apart time daily or weekly to reflect and pray. Here’s the first prayer guide. I’ll catch up and post the other two in the next couple days.

Lenten Prayer Guide

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

Erect a stone. Where and when will I pray throughout Lent? How long will I pray?

The people of Israel fasted and confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Samuel instructed them to “rid yourselves of the foreign gods … and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only.” (1 Samuel. 7:3,6)

What things have you depended upon instead of God? Ask God’s forgiveness.

Thus far the Lord has helped us.

When has God helped you in the past? Give thanks to God.