Welcome to Our Table – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWelcome To Our Table – Introduction

We claim to be a Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where Everyone is Welcome! How well do we live up to that claim? When “outsiders” or “non-believers” walk through our door, do they feel judged by us, or do they feel loved and welcome?

Spiritual Quote

“If you judge people,
you have no time to love them.”
~Mother Teresa

Potential Scripture

  • Colossians 4:5 & 6
  • 1 Peter 3:8
  • Ephesians 4:29
  • Matthew 9:11-13
  • Luke 15:1 & 2
  • Mark 7:13
  • Luke 22:19

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Stories of Non – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceStories of Non – Introduction

We all face challenges every day, and I am no exception. Some call these challenges “tests of faith.” Some even question, “where is God” and “why is this happening to me?” This week we’re going to review three stories by Eckhart Tolle – three Stories of Non. Honestly, the practices seem quite simple on the surface. But, on closer examination, we can see how the principles put forth in the Stories of Non can be deeply rooted in our faith.

Spiritual Quote

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be. ”
~Grandma Moses

Thoughts

This week, I’ve faced some challenges that, quite honestly, have tested my faith. Many of you probably have, too. I’ve been reading, and re-reading, three stories by Eckhart Tolle from his book, “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” I call them Stories of Non. On the surface, the Stories of Non, and the principles they espouse, seem quite simple. They also seem to come under the heading, “Easy to say, not quite as easy to do.” But, by looking deeper at the stories, and how they relate to my faith, I am reminded that “bad” things happen. I’m also reminded that “bad” is relative – it’s how I choose to perceive the situation. And, no matter what, God is right here with me. It’s up to me how I choose to face the challenges.

Story #1 – Maybe – It Is What It Is

“The deeper interconnectedness of all things and events implies that the mental labels of “good” and “bad” are ultimately illusory. They always imply a limited perspective and so are true only relatively and temporarily. This is illustrated in the story of a wise man who won an expensive car in a lottery. His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. “Isn’t it great!” they said. “You are so lucky.” The man smiles and said, “Maybe.” For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car at an intersection and he ended up in the hospital, with multiple injuries. His family and friends cam to see him and said, “That was really unfortunate.” Again the man smiled and said, “Maybe.” While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Again his fr4iends came the next day and said, “Weren’t you lucky to have been here in hospital.” Again he said, “Maybe.””

Story #2 – Is That So

“The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a town in Japan. He was held in high regard and many people came to him for spiritual teaching. Then it happened that the teenage daughter of his next-door neighbor became pregnant. When being questioned by her angry and scolding parents as to the identity of the father, she finally told them that he was Hakuin, the Zen Master.

In great anger the parents rushed over to Hakuin and told him with much shouting and accusing that their daughter had confessed that he was the father. All he replied was, “Is that so?”

News of the scandal spread throughout the town and beyond. The Master lost his reputation. This did not trouble him. Nobody came to see him anymore. He remained unmoved. When the child was born, the parents brought the baby to Hakuin. “You are the father, so you look after him.” The Master took loving care of the child. A year later, the mother remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at a butcher shop. In great distress they went to see Hakuin to apologize and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.” “Is that so?” is all he would say as he handed the baby over to them.

The Master responds to falsehood and truth, bad news and good news, in exactly the same way: “Is that so?” He allows the form of the moment, good or bad, to be as it is and so does not become a participant in human drama. To him there is only this moment, and this moment is as it is. Events are not personalized. He is nobody’s victim. He is so completely at one with what happens that what happens has no power over him anymore. Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness.”

Story #3 – This, Too, Will Pass

“According to an ancient Sufi story, there lived a king in some Middle Eastern land who was continuously torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would cause him great upset or provoke an intense reaction, and his happiness would quickly turn into disappointment and despair. A time came when the king finally got tired of himself and of life, and he began to seek a way out. He sent for a wise man who lived in his kingdom and who was reputed to be enlightened. When the wise man came, the king said to him, “I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price you ask.”

The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient payment for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you will honor it.” The king gave his assurances, and the wise man left.

A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring. The inscription read: This, too, will pass. “What is the meaning of this?” asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. That way, you will always be at peace.””

Putting Them All Together

As Mr. Tolle states, “The full import of these words [This, Too, Shall Pass] becomes clear when we consider them in the context of two other stories that we encountered earlier. The story of the Zen Master whose only response was always “is that so?” shows the good that comes through inner nonresistance to events, that is to say, being at one with what happens. The story of the man whose comment was invariably a laconic “Maybe” illustrates the wisdom of nonjudgment, and the story of the ring points to the fact of impermanence which, when recognized, leads to nonattachment. Nonresistance, nonjudgment, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”

Three statements – Maybe…Is That So…This, Too, Will Pass. Three simple statements…quite easy to say; much harder to live. But, as I re-read these stories this week, I began to realize they have scriptural foundations, too:

Luke 23:24 – “Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”” Jesus accepted the situation as it was. In fact, during his entire ordeal He never resisted what the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Romans did to Him. Even from the cross, He never condemned or judged them.

Matthew 6:19-21 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Philippians 4:11-13 – “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””

Colossians 3:1-4 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…”

In Matthew, Jesus is reminding us that everything of this world is temporary, so don’t get attached to it. Enjoy it while you have it. But, if it goes away, that’s the nature of things. Instead, never let go of faith – it can never be taken away.

Philippians, Hebrews, and Colossians remind us of Paul’s total acceptance over his circumstances and his detachment from material “things.” He understood that everything is temporary, including this earthly life, so he didn’t stress over it. Whether “good” or “bad” – Paul leaned on his faith in Jesus.

Conclusion

So, we have three simple stories…Stories of Non: Nonresistance, Nonattachment, and Nonjudgment. And, scripture validates each and every one of these concepts. Scripture also reminds us to always turn to God in faith, regardless of circumstance. One thing scripture adds, though, is passages that remind us of God’s promise to never leave us. Let’s take a look at just a few of them:

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 – “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Joshua 1:9 – “…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 8:20 – “…And behold, I am with you always…”

We all have troubles and challenges. And, I am no exception. As I mentioned at the beginning today, this week has been full of challenges for me. But, as I pondered and reflected and, yes, even stressed a bit – okay, a lot – I realized I was stressing over “things”. Researching and preparing for today helped me immensely. I am reminded, again, that “things” and situations and possible outcomes are all temporary, or haven’t even happened yet. And, though put into much simpler terms, Grandma Moses was right – life is what we make it.

As I re-read the Stories of Non, and immersed myself in scripture, my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness abated. I became more at peace with it all. I am reassured that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are always with me. No matter what happens, that can never be taken away. And that fills me with a sense of hope.

In closing, I want to share again a poem. It bears witness to Jesus’ reassurance that we will never be alone. We’ve all heard it before but in getting caught up in life, in “things of this world,” we tend to forget. For me, perhaps for you, too, it bears repeating:

Footprints

One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
~Mary Stevenson

Scripture

  • Luke 23:24
  • Matthew 6:19-21
  • Philippians 4:11-13
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • Deuteronomy 31:6
  • Deuteronomy 31:8
  • Joshua 1:9
  • Matthew 6:34
  • Matthew 8:20

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Stories of Non – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceStories of Non – Introduction

This week we’re going to review three stories by Eckhart Tolle – which I’ll call Stories of Non. Honestly, the practices seem quite simple on the surface. But, on closer examination, we can see how the principles put forth in the Stories of Non can be deeply rooted in our faith.

We all face challenges every day, and I am no exception. This week has been particularly challenging for me. Some call these challenges “tests of faith.” Some even question, “where is God” and “why is this happening to me?” By looking deeper at the Stories of Non, and how they relate to my faith, I am reminded that “bad” things happen and, no matter what, God is right here with me. It’s up to me how I choose to face the challenges.

Spiritual Quote

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
~Grandma Moses

Potential Scripture

  • Luke 23:24
  • Matthew 6:19-21
  • Philippians 4:11-13
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • Deuteronomy 31:6
  • Deuteronomy 31:8
  • Joshua 1:9
  • Matthew 6:34
  • Matthew 8:20

Join Us!

We’d be honored to have you join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Back To Church Sunday 2013 – Teaching

BTC Facebook Image 2Back To Church Sunday 2013 – Introduction

Today we have a special service to celebrate National Back To Church Sunday 2013. To begin today’s service, I’d like to play a short video titled, “What Is Church?

Like the video said…Welcome to Church! Some of us are back from summer vacations, some of us are back just to be back, and some are here today just because we’re giving Church another try. Regardless of why you’re here, I’d like to welcome you, and thank you for taking the time to join us this morning.

We are all on a beautiful journey into a relationship with God, the Source of All Being. Especially during this special event, we welcome those who are just beginning their journey and giving thought to what Church might mean to you.

And, we welcome back those who, for whatever reason, might have taken a break from Church; but who continue on your journey none the less. As with all journeys, our spiritual journey begins with the first step.

Spiritual Quote

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoughts

One reason we’re celebrating Back to Church Sunday 2013 is because a lot of us have chosen to take a break from church — some for a few weeks, some for a season, and some have pretty much given up on the church altogether. Studies are telling us that young people are leaving the church in droves. In fact, according to Barna Research, 70% of church-going high school students will leave the church when they graduate, and only a small percentage will ever return.

Why are so many leaving? Honestly, for a lot of reasons. You can probably fill in the blanks. Some leave simply because they’ve made a change in their life and never really got back to it. Some left because they’ve seen too much hypocrisy, some because they felt judged, some because they were bored, and some because they felt like they’ve not been allowed to think and ask difficult questions. Mostly, people leave the church because they don’t see what difference it really makes.

So that’s the question for this morning…“What difference does it make?” If I were to ask you that question, the answers would probably be all over the map? If we’re being honest, over the course of history, often in the name of Jesus, the church has done a lot of good – and, to be sure, it’s done a lot of bad.

But what about Jesus? He’s certainly made a difference, hasn’t He? This morning, I want to ask you three questions. How we answer these three questions can not only transform our perspective on why we’re all here this morning, but also give us hope for the sort of church we can become and the kind of life we can live.

What difference did Jesus make in history?

Without much argument, believers and non-believers alike would agree that no one has had a greater impact on history than Jesus Christ. This man, who spent the first 30 years of His life in relative obscurity would leave a greater mark on history than any man before or after Him. Now, 2,000 years later, in spite of all the attempts to silence His message, more books have been written, more pieces of art have been created, and more songs have been sung about Jesus than anyone else in history. This man, a carpenter’s son from humble beginnings, who never traveled more than a few hundred miles from the town He was born in, has impacted billions of people in every corner of the world.

Napoleon said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison.” Napoleon went on to say that all great empires had been built on force  – except for the Kingdom of God, which was built on love. And ultimately, it would be the only kingdom to last.

Though he never met Jesus, let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul said about the influence of Jesus. In Ephesians 1:21-23 we read, “Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

Before we go on, let’s talk briefly about the word “church.” We speak of coming “to church.” In that sense we use the word “church” to mean the physical meeting place. But that’s not how Paul is using the word “church.” Remember, at the time, there were no “churches” as we think of them today. There were no grand buildings with tall steeples, no pews, no stained glass windows. Yes, the original Christians were Jews, who met in synagogues. But, when the Christians were kicked out of the synagogues, there were no great buildings in which to gather and worship. The church was literally the people. And, when we examine Jesus’ messages and writings such as Paul’s, that’s what we have to remember. It’s not about buildings large or small, denominations, dogma, rules, and regulations – it’s about the people.

Getting back to Jesus and His place in history, John Knox said it well when he said, “No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world as Jesus holds. Other gods have been devoutly worshiped; no other man has been so devoutly loved.”

It’s not as though Christianity has had an easy run. For centuries, indeed millennia, emperors and rulers and societies have tried to silence the church, destroy the word of God, and minimize the impact of Jesus. Ancient Rome made it illegal to be a Christian. In many parts of the world, at various times in history, it was a crime not to be the “right kind” of Christian. Bibles and books have been burned, people imprisoned, tortured, and killed, church buildings bombed and set on fire, all in an effort to silence His message. It has never worked.

Even people who don’t identify themselves as “Christian” live by Christ’s principles. A famous Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, famously said, “Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in the inmost being still follow the Christian ideal.” Even the great writer and professed atheist H.G. Wells admitted the impact of Jesus when he said, “I am a historian. I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is the dominant figure in history.”

Think about this for a moment. Socrates and Aristotle taught for 40 years each, Plato taught for 50 years, and Jesus taught for only three years. How many of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato’s teachings come to mind. How many of their teachings are talked about, debated, taught, and lived out in virtually every part of the world? And yet the influence of Jesus’ short three years has been and continues to be, without question, more influential than the combined 130 years of three men who are arguably the greatest philosophers of all time. The difference Jesus made was much more than just philosophical.

The difference Jesus made in history can be seen in the way He transformed nearly everything and everyone around Him — young and old, men and women, black and white. During His three years of public ministry, Jesus humbly and without fanfare or concern for personal glory, went about healing the sick, caring for the poor and loving the loveless. Much of what He said and did, we pretty much expect today; but in Jesus’ day, it was pretty culture-shaking. He befriended those who, in the Jewish culture, would be seen as unclean or unworthy. He interacted with undesirables such as the “half-breed, heathen” Samaritans. He broke Sabbath law to heal people and to feed the hungry – because people were more important than “the Law.” He didn’t care about a person’s past, what color they were, whether they were considered “good Jews,” etc. He simply cared about people – all people.

Who didn’t Jesus have much regard for? He had great disdain for those who used religion as a weapon of control, and as a means to personal wealth and power. Jesus didn’t care much for “religion” – He cared more about having a relationship with God.

Jesus was all about the people – regardless of “who they were.” In Luke 4:18 & 19 Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

Think of the culture in which Jesus lived. Did you know the average age of a child in Jesus’ day was only 8 years old? Children who were sick or illegitimate were often just cast aside and left to die. Jesus taught his followers by His words and actions that all children were precious to Him. This was big news back then. He healed children, gathered them to Himself, and even said that “unless you come to me like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The early churches took Jesus’ command seriously; and began a movement to value and take care of the “least of these.”

In fact, by the Middle Ages, churches had developed such a reputation for caring for children that it became a common practice for people who couldn’t take care of their own children to leave them on the front steps of a local church. The first orphanages were founded by the Orthodox Church in the 1st century. The largest orphanage in the United States was founded in 1740 and followed the model the Catholic Church had used for over 1000 years!

In addition to children, Jesus also set the example for human rights for women as well as people of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. From the Woman at the Well to the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus broke societal and cultural barriers, and began a revolution of love and freedom that extends right up to today. Jesus’ impact on human rights was only just the beginning. His mark on medicine, education and art can’t be ignored, either.

Did you know that during the Council of Nicaea in 325, it was determined that wherever a church was built, a hospital for the poor should also be built? This is the same meeting of the early church leaders that expressed the importance of the nature of Jesus, established the date of Easter, and created the first Biblical canon. From the beginning, the church realized that part of Jesus’ very nature was to care for the sick and the poor. Up until this time, hospitals, such as they were, were reserved primarily for the rich. But Jesus changed that.

Collectively, the church is the largest provider of health care in the world? That’s how it should be. Jesus, known as the Great Physician, set the example by caring for people’s physical needs and then caring for their spiritual needs. In Luke 9:11 the Bible says… “But the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” Remember, the sick were considered impure, unclean. It was a violation of Jewish law to touch the unclean. Jesus was the first to break those barriers. How many millions of people have been treated, cared for and cured because of the advancements in medicine? We can thank Jesus for much of that.

Of course, the impact of Christianity was echoed in the very formation of America. Though they worshipped differently, many of the early fathers of this country were deeply devout and wanted to form a country that reflected Jesus ideals.

At the moment of George Washington’s inauguration, he knelt and kissed the Bible and then, after the inauguration, he led the members of the House of Representatives to a local church for a two-hour worship service.

Most people know that the very first book ever printed was a Bible. This began a massive wave of education for the masses that up until that time had been unheard of. The vast majority of all education for the first 200 years of American history was Christian, including most of the first 100 universities formed —including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and William & Mary. These schools were all originally founded so that young people could seek to love God with all of their heart, soul and mind.

Jesus’ impact can be clearly seen simply by walking through the streets of the great cities of Europe or the great museums of the world. From soaring cathedrals built to the glory of God, to works of art set behind bulletproof glass, painters, architects and sculptors throughout history have told God’s story. Many of the great composers, from Bach to Vivaldi, were impacted by Jesus’ life. Even movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Braveheart, and many, many others use metaphors and symbols of Christianity.

In human rights, medicine, education, art and even politics, Jesus’ impact can be clearly seen and felt in history. Were there times when “the church” got it wrong? Yes! But that doesn’t negate the positive impact the church has had. But, what about today? Some say the impact of the church has slipped recently. That might be true in some places. But what is being done around the world in the name of Jesus’ is as powerful today as it ever was. And that leads us to the second question:

What difference can Jesus make today?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus stood before His disciples and gave what has become known as the Great Commission. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” When He said that, personally, I don’t think He was just saying, “Go tell people about Me.” For three years, His followers had watched Him heal the sick, embrace the hurting, clothe the naked, feed the poor and love the unlovable. Essentially, what Jesus was saying in Matthew 28:19 was, “You’ve watched me…now it’s your turn. Now, you are my hands and feet.” Our hands are to become His hands, our feet become His feet, our actions become his actions and our words become His words. And that’s what following Jesus is really all about.

And, all too often, that’s what is forgotten about Jesus’ message. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in “telling” others about Jesus that they forget this essential part of His message. When the church stops being like Jesus and gets too caught up in the business of church that we begin to lose our way. And I think that’s when people begin to walk away. On the other hand, when we realize that we have the incredible privilege of announcing Jesus’ Kingdom, that’s different. I’ve spoken about this before…we must stop “telling” people about Jesus and start “showing” people Jesus. We must live His message, not simply talk about it. When we can do that, when we can turn our focus from ourselves and to Jesus and His mission on earth, things get exciting. And people will say, “Oh, that’s what being Christian is all about? Sign me up!” – they’ll want to be a part of it.

Let me give you a few examples of people who, without getting caught up in the “religion,” have lived Jesus’ message and made an impact in today’s world.

In 1999, Matthew Barnett moved to the famous Skid Row area of Los Angeles, determined to be part of God’s plan to make a difference to the “least of these” in the City of Angels. He began with 39 people in his inner-city congregation; most of them drug addicts and prostitutes, and today nearly 40,000 people are fed, clothed, and ministered to in the name of Jesus. Not only that, but he led a sort of revolution as hundreds of other churches have launched Dream Centers in their cities.

Scott Harrison, is a Christ-follower who wasn’t exactly excited about what was happening in church. He was working as a nightclub promoter in Chicago when he decided to take time to volunteer for a non-profit. While spending time as a photojournalist in Africa, he learned that 80 percent of the world’s diseases could be traced back to bad water. Determined to do something about it, Scott did what he knew best and threw a party when he got home. He charged $20 per person, and 700 people showed up. He used the money to dig three wells in Uganda. Those three wells have turned into more than 3,000, and now Charity Water has raised $95 million for clean water projects all over the world.

Let me tell you one more story. In 2008, Christine Caine was tired of hearing about young girls trapped in slavery, and so she started a movement to abolish injustice in the 21st century through a comprehensive system of preventative measures, victim protection, prosecution of violators, and strategic partnerships. Today, the A21 Campaign is bringing hope and help to thousands of women all over the world. There are other amazing organizations and people are taking up the charge to be the Church Jesus desires. World Vision, Compassion International and others bring hope to millions of children through their advocacy programs. Organizations such as the YMCA, Alcoholics Anonymous, and, here locally, the Gospel Rescue Mission which provides food and shelter to hundreds of men, women, and children each year were all founded on the principles of Jesus’ love to others.

There’s a bit of a misconception that the Church is shrinking. In fact, the opposite is the case. Around the world, the church is exploding. According to a recent study, by the year 2050, nearly every continent will grow by hundreds of millions of Christians. In fact, today there are over 300,000 Christian churches in America and nearly 6 million churches worldwide. That’s a lot of impact. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” For centuries, kings and kingdoms have tried to thwart the growth of the church and to silence the Jesus’ message, but the church has continued to grow and thrive.

Do Jesus and His church make a difference today? Without a doubt. It’s easy to focus inward and forget God’s call on us as His church, but today I just wanted to remind us all that we are part of a much bigger movement. And as often happens when good things are happening, people try to take the credit and build their own empires. That’s not a new thing.

It can be argued that history has always tried to contain Jesus. The Romans built an empire around Him, the Europeans built a culture around Him and Americans have built a business around Him. But He cannot be contained.

Much as many would try, He cannot be reduced to a formula or set of rules or a campy song. Jesus is more than the most influential figure in all of history. There is simply no way to contain Him.

Here, today, we are part of revolution 2,000 years in the making, a revolution of love and hope and peace.

So, we see that Jesus has made a remarkable difference in history, and we see that many of Jesus’ followers are making a difference in the world today. But here’s the nagging question still left:

“What difference can Jesus make in my life … right now?”

Again, we can all see what sort of difference Jesus and the church have made in history and the difference that Jesus is making in the world today. But what does that mean to us, right here, right now, in our everyday lives? Here’s the secret – the larger impact of the church is only what it is because of the transformational power of Jesus’ in the lives of individual people — people just like you and me. It’s not the church – it’s the people!

I don’t know how you came in here this morning. Some of you probably came in and everything is going pretty good. That’s awesome, and we love that. But there are probably some of us here this morning that need Jesus to do something in our lives. There are probably a lot of us here today that need God to make a difference in a very real, very personal way. Please know that Jesus sees you today right where you are, exactly how you are.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you’ve never made a decision to follow Jesus, and you’re wondering if He can really make a difference in your life. Or maybe you’re here at church but there‘s someone else, someone you deeply love, that you wish were here with you, and you’ve almost given up hope, and you’re really wondering if God can make a difference in that person’s life.

Maybe you’re here for the first time — or for the first time in a long time — and you’re just sort of holding on, wondering if you’re going to be hurt or disillusioned by church or church people like in the past. Maybe you’re wondering if things can be different in church this time around.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Perhaps you did someone a favor by showing up, but you don’t think that this “Christian” thing is for you. Or, maybe you feel like your past is just too complicated and too messy for Jesus to fix.

I don’t know how you came in here this morning, and it doesn’t matter because I do know this — Jesus is here and He’s absolutely able to make a difference in our lives today.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”

Think about that. Jesus wants to take us, just as we are, and do the sort of thing in us that no one else can do. He wants to work in our lives to make things right. No matter what you’re going through today, the same power of God that has transformed history can transform your life – and that’s pretty amazing.

Conclusion

So, let me ask you a few questions…

  • How many of you believe Jesus has done amazing things in history?
  • How many of you believe the teachings and message, indeed, the Spirit of Jesus is still making a difference in people and in places around the world?
  • And finally, how many of you believe Jesus can make a difference in our lives, here, now, this morning?

Awesome! We are all in the right and perfect place at the right and perfect time. I invite you to continue your journey, strengthening and deepening your relationship with God. And I hope the love, teachings, and message of Jesus is an instrumental part of your journey.

In a moment, we’re going to take some time in prayer. First, though, I’d like to show you two short videos. The first speaks to some of the reasons why people don’t come to church. But, it also speaks to the ideals to which we should strive, and to the kind of church I hope we are – supportive, open, affirming, accepting, and loving. The second is about inviting someone to join us. Inviting folks to join us is important – more important to me is the subtle message. (Watch the Videos: Reasons     Invite A Friend)

Let’s start with that last video – the Invite. Like I said, inviting others to join us is an important message. The subtle, and to me, the more important message is about preconceived notions. How many thought, at first, the “Christian” speaking was the clean-cut, studious fellow trying to figure out how he would invite this scruffy guy with a mohawk to “his church?” I think most of us probably thought that. And that, my friends, is why its message is so important. As a church, we must be cautious of forming those kinds of preconceived ideas about who would and would not be interested…even who and who would not “fit in.” And that brings me to the first video titled “Reasons.”

How many people feel they have to “get their lives together” before they would be welcome. It’s up to us to be a community that helps people get their lives together – to have new beginnings.

Are churches filled with imperfect people? Yes…and there’s always room for one more. We’re not perfect. We should be afraid to let people know that, and that even if they’re “imperfect,” they are welcome.

Do some churches over-emphasize money…the “business” of the church? Sure. Is money important? Yes – without it the “business” side of the church can’t survive. But that can’t be our primary message. But it’s got to be about more than that – people have to come first.

You know, I’ve actually had people ask me if we have a dress code. My response is pretty much the same as in the video – yes, you have to wear clothes…Come as you are…we don’t care what you wear, or if you have tattoos, or a Mohawk, or how many piercings you have, we care about what’s in your heart.

Are some people nervous? Sure. I hope that we make people feel at home.

If someone says, “I’m not sure I believe what you believe,” we should remember we don’t necessarily all believe the same either. That’s okay, this is the place to work through our questions and our doubts.

And we need to help others know that we don’t care about their past. We all have a past; Jesus teaches forgiveness – none of us are perfect, and we welcome everyone regardless of their past. Regardless of their background or faith-history, they’re welcome here.

We believe it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship. That was one of Jesus’ main points when he broke with many of the Jewish traditions and customs. We’re all on a wonderful journey into a deeper, stronger relationship with God; and we’d like to be a part of that journey with you. We’re not perfect. You may just be embarking this journey. We don’t care about what you wear or how you look or about your past. We are dedicated to being a place of Love, Peace, Healing, Compassion, Forgiveness, and Acceptance. It is my hope that we are living examples of that dedication, and of the wonderful and powerful message we find through Jesus.

To those who are regular attendees – thank you for your continued support and dedication.

To those who are returning after an absence – welcome back!

And finally, to those who are joining us for the first time I’d like to say welcome, and thank you for joining us this morning to celebrate Back To Church Sunday 2013 with us. Oftentimes in church we tend to feel like we need to believe in Jesus, then we need to become the person that God intended us to be, and then, maybe, just maybe, we can belong to God’s family. Perhaps some of your previous experiences with church have left you feeling that way. Well, I’ve got good news. That’s not the way it works at all. Today, here, now, I want you to know that no matter where you are on your faith journey, you belong to the family of God. And, we want you to feel that way here, in this church, too.

Scripture

  •     Ephesians 1:21-23
  •     Luke 4:18 & 19
  •     Luke 9:11
  •     Matthew 28:19
  •     Matthew 16:18
  •     2 Corinthians 5:17

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Back To Church Sunday 2013 – Quote

Back To Church Sunday 2013 BannerBack To Church Sunday 2013 – Introduction

This Sunday, September 15th, we will have a special service to celebrate National Back To Church Sunday 2013. We are all on a beautiful journey into a relationship with God, the Source of All Being. Especially during this special event, we welcome those who are just beginning their journey and giving thought to what Church might mean to them. And, we welcome back those who, for whatever reason, might have taken a break from Church; but who continue on their journey none the less. As with all journeys, our spiritual journey begins with the first step.

Spiritual Quote

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Potential Scripture

  • Ephesians 1:21-23
  • Luke 4:18 & 19
  • Luke 9:11
  • Matthew 28:19
  • Matthew 16:18
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17

Join Us!

Regardless of the spiritual path you have been traveling, regardless of your past, and regardless of “who you are” or “what you’ve done,” we invite you to join us for this very special time of worship and fellowship as we celebrate National Back To Church Sunday 2013!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Key to Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceKey to Peace – Introduction

We speak a lot about Peace – especially Inner Peace. But, what does it really mean? With all that’s going on in our lives, and in our world, how can we possibly find peace? And, what is the Key to Peace?

Spiritual Quote

“What lies behind us, and what lies before us,
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

Promises of Scripture

Let’s take a look at a few promises and assurances made in Scripture:

  • Psalm 29:11 – The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
  • John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • John 16:33 – I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
  • Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Notice all of these passages refer to an inner peace. They speak about “the world” – tangible, material, physical – and how we will definitely have troubles in this world. But, Jesus overcame the things of the physical world and lived life completely and fully spiritual. The peace referred to is something that can only be found deep within ourselves, within our very spirit. It is a peace so deep and so profound our words can’t come close to describing or explaining it – it literally “transcends all understanding.”

Barriers to Peace

Unwittingly, we tend to create our own barriers to peace. One such barrier is not letting go of the past. We tend to hold onto past hurts, past events, past “wrongs”; and, in so doing, we give them power over our present. We hold onto these things of the past and they create a barrier to enjoying peace now, today, in this present moment.

Let me share a couple of stories by Eckhart Tolle from his book, “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”:

The Duck With a Human Mind

“In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions.

Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing ever happened.

If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck’s story: “I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.” And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keep it going.”

Carrying the Past

“The inability or rather unwillingness of the human mind to let go of the past is beautifully illustrated in the story of two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, who were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer. “Why did you carry that girl across the road?” he asked. “We monks are not supposed to do things like that.”

“I put the girl down hours ago,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Now imagine what life would be like for someone who lived like Ekido all the time, unable or unwilling to let go internally of situations, accumulating more and more “stuff” inside, and you get a sense of what life is like for the majority of people on our planet. What a heavy burden of past they carry around with them in their minds.”

The Moral of the Story

Mr. Tolle goes on to say:

“The past lives in you as memories, but memories in themselves are not a problem. In fact, it is through memory that we learn from the past and from past mistakes.

It is only when memories, that is to say, thoughts about the past, take you over completely that they turn into a burden, turn problematic, and become part of your sense of self…Your story, however, consists not only of mental but also of emotional memory – old emotion that is being revived continuously. As in the case of the monk who carried the burden of his resentment for five hours by feeding it with his thoughts, most people carry a large amount of unnecessary baggage, both mental and emotional, throughout their lives. They limit themselves through grievances, regret, hostility, guilt.”

The Barrier of Ego

Another barrier to deep, inner peace is our own ego. Our ego loves to be built up. We build our ego whenever we claim someone else to be wrong in order for us to be right, or when we make ourselves “better” by making someone else “less.” This is what’s going on when a driver cuts you off and your holler and scream obscenities.

It’s also what’s going on when we attach judgmental labels to others, e.g. “he’s so _____,” or “she’s such a _____” – constantly strengthening our own sense of self at the expense of others. When we behave in this way, our words and actions are guided and influenced by our sense of self. We certainly don’t behave in a way that is guided by love, by the Spirit of God within us. In fact, I’ve seen ego used as an acronym for “Edging God Out.”

When we live life based on our ego, we are living in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of Spirit. Our own ego, and carrying the past, which also stems from ego, create some of the biggest barriers to living a live filled and fueled by peace.

Breaking Down the Barriers

So, how do we begin to break down the barriers? Mr. Tolle advises, “We can learn to break the habit of accumulating and perpetuating old emotion by flapping our wings, metaphorically speaking, and refrain from mentally dwelling on the past, regardless of whether something happened yesterday or thirty years ago. We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making…Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?”

Another way we can break down the barriers is to diminish our ego – that is to say, quit Edging God Out. Again, Mr. Tolle puts it this way:

“A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens without attempting to restore it. I recommend that you experiment with this from time to time. For example, when someone criticizes you, blames you, or calls you names, instead of immediately retaliating or defending yourself – do nothing. Allow the self-image to remain diminished and become alert to what that feels like deep inside you. For a few seconds, it may feel uncomfortable, as if you had shrunk in size. Then you may sense an inner spaciousness that feels intensely alive. You haven’t been diminished at all.

In fact, you have expanded. You may then come to an amazing realization: When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute nonreaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming “less,” you become more…Through becoming less (in ego’s perception), you in fact undergo an expansion and make room for Being to come forward…This is what Jesus means when He says, “Deny yourself.” [Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, & Luke 9:23 – brackets mine.]

This does not mean, of course, that you invite abuse or turn yourself into a victim of unconscious people. Sometimes a situation may demand that you tell someone to “back off” in no uncertain terms. Without egoic defensiveness, there will be power behind your words, yet no reactive force. If necessary, you can also say no to someone firmly and clearly, and it will be what I call a “high-quality no” that is free of all negativity.

If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave…Jesus, in one of his parables, teaches that “When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place so that when your hose comes, he may say to you, friend, move up higher. Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 14:10 & 11, brackets mine.]

An Easy Exercise

In the Old Testament, who does God say He is? I AM. That’s it…no qualifiers such as “I am God,” or “I am All Powerful.” Simply, I AM. One way to find inner peace is, as Mr. Tolle puts it:

“Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think “I AM” and add nothing to it. Be aware of the stillness that follows the I AM. Sense your presence, the naked, unveiled, unclothed beingness. It is untouched by young or old, rich or poor, good or bad, or any other attributes…”

I particularly like this little exercise because it can be done virtually anywhere, anytime. It only takes a moment to close our eyes, get still, and say to ourselves, “I AM.”

The Breath of Life

Scripture also refers to the Spirit of God being the Breath of Life. In Hebrew, the word “ruach” is used to convey wind, breath, mind, and spirit; and it is often combined with other words to convey the Spirit of God.  Notice how breath is used in the following scriptures:

  • Genesis 2:7 – “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”
  • Genesis 7:2 – “…in whose nostrils was the breath of life…”
  • Job 33:4 – “the breath of the Almighty has given me life…”

The Spirit of God is the breath of life. All too often we ignore the deep spiritual connection the simple and automatic act of breathing can create. Mr. Tolle offers us another exercise for breaking down barriers and creating a sense of inner peace:

“Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Notice how the chest and abdomen expand and contract slightly with the in- and outbreath…One conscious breath (two or three would be even better), taken many times a day, is an excellent way of bringing space into your life. Even if you meditated on your breathing for two hours or more, which some people do, one breath is all you ever need to be aware of, indeed ever can be aware of. The rest is memory or anticipation, which is to say, thought. Breathing isn’t really something that you do but something that you witness as it happens. Breathing happens by itself. The intelligence within the body is doing it. All you have to do is watch it happening. There is no strain or effort involved. Also, notice the brief cessation of the breath, particularly the still point at the end of the outbreath, before you start breathing again…Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all inner transformation.

Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing.”

What do we often hear when someone is getting themselves all worked up? “Breathe”… or “Take a few breaths before you respond.” We even begin our worship by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on God. Why? Because it’s impossible to think about anything else when you focus on your breathing. This simple act alleviates overactive thought, brings about a sense of calm and peace, and literally fills us with the Spirit of God. Give it try now, if you like. Close your eyes and focus only on your breathing – focus on your inbreath, focus on your outbreath…focus on your chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath…focus on how each part of your body feels with each breath. Now, open your eyes. Were you able to think of anything else while you were solely focused on your breathing?

Conclusion

Remember back to our opening today. Scripture assures us of God’s peace. The peace referred to is something that can only be found deep within ourselves, within our very spirit. It is a peace so deep and so profound our words can’t come close to describing or explaining it – it literally “transcends all understanding.” Barriers to that Inner Peace include our carrying around our past like a set of Louis Vuitton luggage, worrying about our future (which we’ve talked about before), and our own ego. We have access to the Key to Peace anytime we want. All we have to do is take a few moments every day to focus on “I AM” without attaching any qualifiers, take a few minutes to focus solely on our breathing, and practice minimizing our ego, or Edging God Out.

As our quote tells us…our past and our future are tiny matters, of little importance, compared to what lies within us – right here, right now. Being present in this moment and letting the Spirit of God breathe life into us is our Key to Peace.

Scripture

  • Psalm 29:11
  • John 14:27
  • John 16:33
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16
  • Philippians 4:7
  • Matthew 16:24
  • Luke 9:23
  • Mark 8:34
  • Genesis 2:7
  • Genesis 7:2
  • Job 33:4
  • Luke 14:10 & 11

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If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

 

Key to Peace – Quote

Key to Peace – Introduction

Well, this last week the blog system had issues and I wasn’t able to post the quote in advance. Now that the system is up and running again, I’m catching up from last week, and will be posting this week’s quote shortly.

We speak a lot about Peace – especially Inner Peace. but, what does it really mean? With all that’s going on in our lives, and in our world, how can we possibly find peace?

Spiritual Quote

“What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tine matters compared to what lies within us.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Criminal Minds Episode

Since the week has already passed us by, I’ll forgo the normal blog closings…

Feeling Stuck: A Spiritual Fast – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFeeling Stuck: A Spiritual Fast – Introduction

We all go through periods in our lives when we just feel stuck…stuck in our relationships, stuck in our financial situation, stuck in our job. When this happens, maybe what we’ve done, perhaps even unconsciously or subconsciously, is gone on a hunger strike. In essence, we are on a spiritual fast.

Spiritual Quote

“Just as there is food for the body, there is food for the spirit. The consequences of spiritual malnutrition are just as hurtful to our spiritual lives as physical malnutrition is to our physical bodies.”
~Dallin H. Oaks

Thoughts

As I was preparing for today’s message, I was feeling a bit “stuck.” I had all sorts of things in mind to talk about, had done research, jotted down notes, and then – bam – the words just wouldn’t come. I stared at the computer, got a cup of coffee, went back to my notes, stared at the computer some more, and still nothing. I started to feel discouraged and anxious. Then Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:6)…”Be anxious for nothing…”

I put down the coffee, walked away from the computer, and did what most pastors do when they’re “stuck” – I went for a short walk. While I walked, I said a simple prayer, “Lord, I’m stuck…please guide me.”

As I walked around my backyard, I noticed the plants and shrubs. Some of you know that we’ve been re-working the irrigation system at the house. For weeks Mike has been digging, trenching, laying out new lines, adding sprinklers, etc. All this work only to discover we have no choice but to put in a 4th valve and zone because there simply isn’t enough pressure to water everything. Unfortunately, this discovery has come at the expense of half the backyard – nothing has gotten watered for several days. Many of the poor plants and shrubs are struggling and wilting, and leaves are turning brown from the lack of water. They seem to be begging, “Feed me, water me.”

That’s when the thought occurred to me that many times when we feel “stuck” it’s because we’re not getting the nourishment we need.

We all know how important food is to our bodies. Without food and water, our bodies break down, our cells can’t regenerate, and our health declines. Sure, we can go for a short time without food or water, but before long, the lack of nourishment takes its toll. Sometimes we fast on purpose – but even then it’s only for a short time. Our physical bodies simply cannot be sustained without physical nourishment.

The same is true for our spiritual body. Without proper spiritual nutrition, our spiritual body breaks down, we aren’t regenerated, and our spiritual health declines. Our spiritual bodies simply cannot be sustained without spiritual nourishment.

In our day-to-day lives we can easily get caught up in the “things of this world.” Think of all we do on a regular basis: work, vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, do the ironing, mow the lawns, do the shopping, tend to the kids, and tend to our loved ones. We have doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and counseling appointments. Then we have those unexpected things come up like completely re-doing an irrigation system. And, occasionally we fit in something fun like a concert, a movie, or a vacation. Our lives are so full, where do we find time for the things of the Spirit? Is it any wonder we end up on a Spiritual Fast? All too often we are “feasting” on the “things of this world,” and completely ignoring the nourishment of our spiritual bodies. No wonder we get “stuck.”

What Does Scripture Say?

Scripture reminds us that we must nourish our spiritual selves.

  • Mat 4:4  – “But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’””
  • 1 Corinthians 10:3 & 4 – They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
  • 1 Peter 2:2 – “…crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Just as food and water are vital to the health and wellness of our bodies, our spiritual food is vital to our spiritual health and well-being. And, if we’re being honest, we put a lot of thought and effort into our next meal. We plan out menus, we make shopping lists, we spend hours going to various stores, and we spend hours each week preparing meals. But, how much time do we take to plan and prepare for our spiritual nourishment?

For many of us, if we can squeeze in one hour per week for church, we consider ourselves “fed.” We simply don’t put the same time and energy into nourishing our spiritual selves – we don’t make it a priority.

When planning a wedding, I ask the level of importance they place on attending church and their spiritual growth. Most say they feel their spiritual growth, attending church, etc. is very important. When asking those same couples if they attend church regulary, most say no. And, when asked why they don’t, invariably the answer is “we just don’t seem to have the time.” It seems to me that we may think or feel that our spiritual nourishment and growth is important, but we simply don’t give it the time it deserves and requires.

When we’re hungry, we eat. When we’re thirsty, we drink. Our bodies are programmed to tell us when we need nourishment, and we respond. Generally speaking, we eat and we drink every day. Most of us eat one, two, three, even four or fives times a day. And most of us drink something – water, coffee, tea, soda, etc. – throughout the day. But when it comes to our spiritual bodies, many of us go on a six day fast, only eating once a week at church – if we’re lucky! Again, it’s no wonder we get “stuck.”

Breaking the Spiritual Fast

Want to get unstuck? Feed your spiritual body. There’s a reason the first meal of the day is called breakfast. After a long night with no food – basically, a fast – the first meal of the day breaks the fast. We need to get ourselves in the habit of having a spiritual breakfast every day, too. We need to take time reading scripture. We need to take time in prayer and meditation. We need to spend time communing with God, letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide us. When we do, the Lord will guide us to right actions and right decisions, we’ll feel inspired and motivated, and we’ll get “unstuck.” Will we make a mistake, or take a detour down a wrong path, once in a while? Sure, but He’ll stay with us, and He’ll guide us.

Psalm 37:23-24 tells us, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they may stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 32:8 says, “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you’.” And Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

These are strong assurances. But, how can He guide us when we don’t spend time with Him? When we’re on a spiritual fast, we’re not studying scripture, we’re not spending time in prayer and meditation, and our spiritual health declines. The only way to regain our strength and our spiritual well-being is to end our spiritual fast.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let me ask a few questions.

How much time do you spend each week…

Planning meals?
Grocery shopping?
Preparing meals?
Eating?
Doing dishes?

Now…how much time do you spend each week…

In prayer and meditation?
Reading scripture?
Attending church?
Participating in other spiritual activities?

Is there a disconnect? Is there an imbalance? If so, I invite you to give more thought to your spiritual growth and nourishment. When we’re hungry, we eat, and we feel better. When we’re thirsty, we drink, and we feel better. That’s how we maintain our physical health. The same is true for our spiritual bodies. To maintain our spiritual health, we must make it a priority. And so it is…I invite you to break the Spiritual Fast.

Scripture

  • Matthew 4:4
  • 1 Corinthians 10:3 & 4
  • 1 Peter 2:2
  • Psalm 37:23-24
  • Psalm 32:8
  • Proverbs 3:5-6

Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!