Don’t take the summer off from God is the theme of a letter I recently sent to the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. I encourage you to take it to heart and apply it to the congregation where you worship.
Category Archives: Spiritual disciplines
Someone asked me recently what was my biggest regret in life. I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that has been done to me.
”Being in a hurry,” I said.
”Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.”
Through all that haste, I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God
“It will be awkward until it’s not,” said John, my physical therapist, as he encouraged me to keep practicing walking with one crutch.
Walking with one crutch is not only awkward, but painful as well. I’ve gone from a walker to two crutches. Going to one crutch is the next step in my rehab before I can get rid of the crutches altogether. Wanting to get back on my feet, I’ve been diligent to practice this new skill at least three times a day. I try to do four laps up and down the hallway in our house (about 20 feet). I tried it this afternoon in the sanctuary at church. As I explained to Robin W, the center aisle in the sanctuary is long, unobstructed, and no one can hear me when I groan. 😉
The phrase, “It will be awkward until it’s not,” is applicable to any skill development. Whether rehabbing a broken limb, learning how to drive, mastering accounting principles, studying computer programming, or learning a foreign language, it takes time before awkward, conscious practice becomes second nature.
The same can be said for developing spiritual disciplines. Inductive Bible study requires consciously observing, asking questions, and paying attention to grammar before it becomes second nature and you do it without thinking. Learning how to share your faith requires memorizing key verses, anticipating questions and objections, thinking through an outline, writing out your testimony, and practicing on a friend before it becomes a natural part of your conversations. Prayer requires diligence and a thoughtful prayer list before it seems like a normal conversation with the Father.
Learning to walk without support is awkward and difficult for me. I could give up and just sit in my recliner. But I am motivated to get back on my feet. I just need to apply that same level of discipline and drive to other needed areas of my life.
Book Review: Ordering Your Private World (Revised and Updated), by Gordon MacDonald
I was introduced to Gordon MacDonald’s work back in the mid-80’s when Ordering Your Private World was first published. I was in graduate school at the time, driven by my pursuit of education and starting out in ministry. His words were encouraging and helpful in laying a foundation for a sustainable ministry. Now that I am in my 60’s and have been in ministry for 30+ years, his revised and updated version of the book is even more helpful.
The principles of the original book are still in place—learning to manage your time, scheduling time for study, prayer, reflection, spiritual disciplines, thinking, and rest. They emphasize the importance of building your life from the inside out rather than merely focusing on skill development. The difference is that MacDonald now writes as a man in his late 70’s with a much broader and deeper level of experience. His words take on even greater importance knowing that they have been lived and practiced for decades.
The book now includes a study guide written by Leslie H. Stobble. It will aid in implementing the author’s suggestion of using a journal to help record your insights along the way. The book is well worth reading and rereading.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
I am surprised, amazed, saddened … by what people think about and share with the world. There is a decided lack of civility in public discourse, especially regarding politics. On the one hand, Facebook is filled with posts about depression, anxiety, and darkness. On the other hand, it is also populated with trivial games, comments, videos, and frivolous pursuits.
When you calculate what people are thinking about, is it any wonder our world is in trouble?
This morning, I was challenged by Jeremiah 15:16 – “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
The verse reminded me of the apostle Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
As Christ followers, we need to make healthy choices about what we feed our minds. While we cannot avoid the negative, we also don’t have to focus and meditate on it. We must make the choice to fill our minds with Scripture in order to gain God’s perspective on life. We must choose to focus on those things which will build us up rather than tear us down.
What are you feeding your mind?
In one of his lectures on leadership, Prof Hendricks made the statement that most, if not all, leaders are behind in their think time. GUILTY AS CHARGED!
While I publicly endorse the idea, and tell others they should schedule one or two planning days a year, I am doing well if I schedule one every two or three years. If confession is good for the soul, then I have to admit my last planning day was in the fall of 2013. I plan, yes, but I do it in 15 or 30 minute increments, not a full day devoted to it.
I came to the conclusion recently that I allowed myself to get too busy during the past couple of years. I was doing good things—preaching, teaching, managing, committees, activities, visiting, counseling—but I was not leading. I wasn’t putting my feet up and dreaming about the future, asking God what he wanted to do in and through me.
In the past, I learned that for me to take a planning day, I needed to get out of the office and out of my house. If I was in the office, I was caught up in meetings, appointments, and sermon prep. If I was at home, I was still working as well as distracted by house stuff. I did more thinking when I went to a park or a mall and walked and prayed.
On Thursday, I took a planning day and went to Stanley Park in Westfield, MA. I can’t say I did much planning, but I walked and prayed and listened for 2+ hours. At this stage of my life and ministry, I have more questions than answers. So I prayed, asking God for wisdom and direction and then stayed quiet to hear him speak.
- Are there areas where I need to grow?
- Does my marriage need attention? How can I be a better husband? How can I encourage my wife?
- How can I mentor and influence my kids now that they are adults and live a distance away?
- Are there skills I need to develop or sharpen?
- How can I be more fruitful and effective?
- When should I consider retirement?
- How long should I keep going and teaching?
- How does the new law change what/how what we’re doing?
- How can I best help equip the men and women I teach?
- How can I mentor and encourage our staff?
- How can I best prepare and equip Jack for full-time ministry?
- How can I help our elders be more effective and fruitful in shepherding the congregation?
- Who should I be investing in for the future?
- How can I best help and encourage ____________?
- How healthy is the congregation? What books/topics should I consider preaching to help meet their needs and help them grow?
- How can we become more effective and fruitful in outreach and evangelism?
Since my list got longer as the day went on, I best not wait another three years to contemplate and seek the answers.