Spiritual Disciplines


This Sunday a variety of Christian communities around the world will be reading the following passage… Mark 4:35-41

5On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Many of our lives have a bit of uncertainty right now. Jobs? Families? Money? Relationships? Balance? Purpose? Missional Calling? Time? Etc…

How often do you look at all of the things going on around you and feel a bit trapped on a boat that is being toppled by waves? It happens to me sometimes. Often when this happens I do a couple things… I pick up a bucket and start throwing water overboard (this doesn’t usually work as the rain continues to pour in), then I move to freak out…

This may be a bit of what the disciples went through, on their own strength wanting Jesus to get up and start throwing buckets of water out of the with them, but he was what?? sleeping??

I get the opportunity to spend time with a lot of leaders at Visio Dei talking about our faith journeys. Sometimes we feel like Jesus is sleeping and don’t really know how to wake him up. Sometimes we are shouting at God for an answer or direction and don’t really see it. Sometimes we are just too overwhelmed to realize that Jesus is still peacefully with us. Sometimes we try out all sorts of ‘buckets’ before we realize our capacity isn’t enough.

When I read this, I am reminded that when I am afraid, uncertain or trying to hard to do things on my own. I need to run to Jesus, to trust Jesus, to seek his word, to pray, to put down my bucket long enough to listen to him calm the storm and sit in awe of his command.

I’m not suggesting that when we do this we will automatically have all of our questions answered, I don’t believe God works that way. But, when we do this, we become more connected to our God, Jesus, Love, Hope, Peace, Passion, Mission…

We need Jesus. Run to him, cling to him, learn from, find others to help you do this too, allow him to fill you with the power to do what you are called to do.

What do you think about when you read this passage?

A few years ago I remember hearing a sermon somewhere about “eating the word”… for some reason that phrase stayed with me. I believe it was talking about how we are to approach the scriptures, to taste it, to chew on it, to meditate on it, to digest it, to allow it to nourish and change us… something like that??

Anyways, today I started out with my memory verse: So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9

Then, I went and started to read Galatians, started with ch. 6 and then added 5. In light of the shepherding training that we had on Sunday and the teachings from Corinthians, I thought this passage would be applicable to our community, a passage to eat, a passage to digest, a passage to consider. 

So, I am going to type out this passage here and bold the parts that stood out to me. I may interject some thoughts or questions along the way. I think it would serve you well to eat this word! 

 

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Listen! I Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of not benefit to you. I say it again, If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. 

  • maybe its not circumcision for us, but there are other things that we look to for justification… what is it for you? — let it go! 

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. 

  • so what does that look like? 

You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. The false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever it is, who has been confusing you. 

  • What are you confused about? What do we need to be cautious of? 

Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised–as some say I do– why I am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those trouble-makers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. 

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love.  For the whole law is summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. 

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 

  • anyone ever feel this way? 
  • I have this thought that if we are pursuing our spiritual gifts and using them, we will be more filled with the spirit and less filled with the sin nature. as we are practically, prayerfully and actually running towards who God has created us the sinful desire will loose power! 

But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that kind of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God! 

  • this isn’t a check off list, it can’t be in light of the beginning of the chapter, its an observation of what happens to us. the sickness of sin invades our life, we must pursue “faith expressing itself in love”

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. 

  • what can we learn here? trust! prayer! humility! — we ALREADY have freedom, we need to believe that we do. 

ARE YOU STILL WITH ME? I’M ALMOST AT 1000 WORDS, SO I KNOW THIS IS GETTING LONG, BUT WE JUST FINISHED GALATIANS 5 AND HAVE THE WHOLE NEXT CHAPTER TO GO THROUGH. IF YOU NEED TO TAKE A BREAK AND COME BACK, IF YOU NEED TO TAKE A COUPLE DAYS TO EAT THIS WORD, PLEASE DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU…. moving on…

Dear brothers and sisters, if another brother is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 

  • there it is… share each other’s burdens, this is the law of Christ! 

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important! 

  • i just love that part! 

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 

  • anyone else ever struggle with comparison? anyone else ever feel responsible for others? 
  • there must be a difference between sharing in each other’s burdens and taking over responsibilities of others… maybe some learning on boundaries will be helpful! 

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled– you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially those in the family of faith. 

  • there it is again… this communal aspect to living out our faith in love… this encouragement to not give up, this tension between resting in our freedom and what the Spirit does and a call to persevere by our actions… Got to love the gray and the mystery… Got to pursue the Spirit and allow it to surprise us!

NOTICE WHAT LARGE LETTERS I USE AS I WRITE THESE CLOSING WORDS IN MY OWN HANDWRITING. Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look to good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples. 

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have  been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle: they are the new people of God. 

  • Wow! Do we believe it? Do we see ourselves as new creations with new trajectories for life? We have spiritual gifts, we have gifts that God makes powerful by his grace, we have freedom from external pressure to measure up with the world or to get our status from our stuff, our relationships, our crowds, our abilities. 
  • Humility, graciousness and love seem to be the theme here to me. Its all about God! 

From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen

  • I’m not quite sure about that part, but it seems to me that Paul really wants the Galatians to get this idea of freedom and new life, to pursue the Holy Spirit and to let go of the legalism without falling into temptation… 

SHADES OF GRAY… THESE CAN ONLY BE DISCOVERED AS WE LIVE LIFE TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY. THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF OURS! 

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of this. My prayer is that as we learn together we can encourage each other to engage with what our own issues might be and how we can humbly help each other to truly believe and act on the truth that we are made new through Christ alone.

Growing up, the main thing I remember about Lent was my dad gave up eating lots of chocolate, but started eating a lot of bread. I generally thought of it as a not-so-fun time of year where you give something up you like. Since then, I’ve learned there is a bit more to it and Lent is actually a chance to deepen our spirituality as we become more in tune with the central mystery of the Christian faith- the passion and resurrection.

Brief History of Lent

In the early church, Lent served as a time of self-examination for new converts to the faith. As the church grew, the tradition expanded to a more formalized, 40 day season of repentance for the whole church. After the Reformation, the church often has been suspicious of rituals, traditions, and formal calendars for creating a dead, faith when we have been given access to the grace through faith.

In recent years, there has been a “reawakening” to some of the traditional practices from church history in search of a deeper, historical expression of the Christian faith. Rather than seeing traditions as dead rituals or religious superstitions, tradition can be a source of deepening our walk with Christ, and our community in Christ.

Significance of Lent

This season of 40 days is a time to pause and reflect on our lives as we prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection. Following the discipline of the church calendar can help us to become more aware of what Christ is doing in our hearts and all around us as we prepare for a more authentic, meaningful celebration of Easter. In our quick fix-instant gratification culture, it is easy to not be very reflective on the state of our souls and treat the cross and resurrection as a magic ticket to heaven. We are often guilty of wanting the benefits of Christ without being willing to take on the way of Jesus. One missionary says, “a superficial understanding of the events and pattern of Christ’s death only leads to a shallow and impotent experience of our new life in Christ.”

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