16Apr

Stephen’s Glow

Acts 6:8-15 (one of the passages for this coming Sunday’s study)
8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12 This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.[a]

13 The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. 14 We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth[b] will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

15 At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.

Are we spending time with the Lord in a way that “glows” to those around us?

9Apr

Colossians 1:15-20 Reflection

READ:

Colossians 1:15-20

BACKGROUND:

The book of Colossians is written by Paul to the church in the city of Colosse (a city in the Roman province of Asia which is where modern Turkey is today).

There was a heresy (false teaching) that Paul is specifically countering in this scripture.  The false teaching held a view that Jesus was one of many lesser spirit beings that emanated from God.  They denied Jesus’ humanity AND deity.

Paul meets these false ideas head-on and defends Jesus’ deity and His sufficiency to reconcile men to God.

The Greek word for “image” means “copy” or “likeness.”  From this term we get our English word icon, referring to a statue.  Jesus Christ is the perfect image -exact likeness- of God and is in the very form of God (John 1:14, Philippians 2:6), and has been so from all eternity.  By describing Jesus in this manner, Paul emphasizes that He is fully God in every way.

(taken from the Colossians and Philemon study by John MacArthur)

QUESTIONS:

1- What new insight into who Jesus is do you gain from reflection on this scripture?

2- How would your life look if you truly gave Christ the place of preeminence?

 

9Jan

Finding Contentment

PrayerONEOver the last week theAlley’s social media has focused on seven prayers for our church family.  The first one is “That we would be always content but never comfortable.”

Easy to say, hard to do.

Contentment is elusive.

Our commercialized culture promises us contentment at every turn and often in the form of comforts.  Every informercial vows to make your life easier and your soul more complete with 3 easy installments!

Irony is that we are arguably the most comfortable generation in all of recorded history.

In a world where the Snuggie is a thing (for you and your dog!) are we really more content?

In chapter four of the book of Philippians the Apostle Paul says that he has learned the secret of being content in all situations.  That’s saying a lot because Paul’s life had some serious up and down swings!

That means:

  • In times of plenty.  He is content.
  • In times of want.  He is content.
  • In joy, he is content.
  • In sorrow, he is content.
  • When he’s sharing a meal with friends; he is content.
  • When he’s beaten and imprisoned; he is content.
  • In every season… he… is… content.

How can he say that?  Thankfully he keeps writing.

As a contender for the “passage most used out of context”  he says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

He’s saying waaay more than – with Jesus I can climb a mountain, get out of debt or win a game.  He’s saying that because of Jesus, no matter what (adversity or prosperity) he is content.  In Christ, he says, he has strength!

So what is Paul’s secret to contentment?

Its simplicity is profound.

The answer to Paul’s contentment is Jesus-focused gratitude and Jesus-focused purpose.

His writings are saturated with these two things.

I’ll boil it down this way:

We don’t find contentment. When gratitude and a sense of deeper purpose are evident in our lives contentment finds us.  

Here are a few practices (and links to more info) that can help us grow in Jesus-focused gratitude and purpose.

  • Mindfulness: Slowing down time by not doing more but noticing more.
  • Gratitude Flipping: The practice of “flipping” a negative experience/reaction into a concrete expression of gratitude.
  • Practicing Simplicity: Practicing simplicity is ultimately about recognizing Jesus as Lord and trusting in Him.
  • Create an Affections List: List the things that stir your affections for Jesus and a second list of the things that rob your affections for Jesus.
29Apr

“ Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden. ”

- Corrie Ten Boom -
17Mar

Faith WOD .25 Practicing Simplicity

INTRODUCTION: Counting this one, there are only four WODs left in the JESUSrhythm.  So many WODs in such a short time can begin to feel busy, maybe even overwhelming.  Busy-ness does not mean worthy-ness.  Today’s WOD should come as a breath of fresh air to the busy soul.  Much like the practice of Sabbath brings stillness to our schedule so the practice of Simplicity should quiet our hearts and minds.

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OBJECTIVE: Contentment.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” ― John Piper

TODAY’S STEPS

READ: Philippians 4:11-13

REFLECT: Reading through the New Testament bears witness to these words from Paul.

  • Where in your life has adversity challenged your contentment?
  • Where in your life has prosperity challenged your contentment?

RHYTHM CHALLENGE:  Today’s simplicity challenge is meant to give us perspective.  Practicing simplicity is ultimately about recognizing Jesus as Lord and trusting in Him.  As our love for Jesus grows, our appetite for the things of the world decreases.  The more satisfied we are in the Lord the less likely the opinions of others will affect us.  

Today’s challenge will require a block of time to do the following. 

  1. Write out a list of your adversities.  (challenges, worries, personal conflicts, struggles, hardships, ect.)
  2. Write a second list of your prosperities. (possessions, comforts, relationships, accolades, ect.)
  3. Go over each of those lists and write down next to each item in what ways Jesus is greater than them. (This may lead you to specific verses or simply be a note about the beauty of the cross or the victory of Jesus or the depth of His love.)

RHYTHM HELPS:

Verses about Jesus that speak to our adversities and prosperities.

  •  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.  Philippians 3:7-9

  • Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:28-29

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6

  • God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9

  • So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

  • But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. Exodus 14:13-14

  • The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. Psalm 34:19

  • for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

  • Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.  John 6:68

*Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Just joining the JESUSrhythm conversation?   Check out the Welcome Page to get up to speed.

13Mar

Faith WOD .24 Partner Prayer

INTRODUCTION: Today’s WOD, our last of four consecutive WODs on prayer, is a challenge to pray with a partner.  Though simple in nature, many people find praying out loud with another person a challenge.  For those of us who feel that way, now is a great time to take a step of faith.   Praying out loud with a partner is not about eloquent speech, or sharing a great volume of words.  It can feel humbling because it is.  Humbling yourself before God alongside of another person is a rich and powerful practice.  Praying for each other is a gift and one of the marks of true Christian community.

OBJECTIVE: Pray out loud with a partner.

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

TODAY’S STEPS

READ: Acts 1:13-14; Acts 12:12; Acts 20:36; 2 Chronicles 6:13-14

REFLECT:

  • What do all of these passages have in common?

In 2 Chronicles it mentions that Solomon kneeled before God with all of the people present.  This was highly uncommon because everyone is used to kneeling before the king, not seeing the king on his knees before someone else.

  • What does Solomon praying on his knees say about God?
  • What value do you see in people humbling themselves before God in the presence of others? Explain.

RHYTHM CHALLENGE:  Pray with another person.  Set aside time with your partner, a friend or your spouse.  Share with each other what has been the subject of your prayers and what you can pray for each other.  Pray.

Remember to stay consistent with the 14|15 Challenge

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*Share your thoughts in the Comments.

But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear him.
”  Psalm 103:17

Just joining the JESUSrhythm conversation?   Check out the Welcome Page to get up to speed.

10Mar

Faith WOD .23 Breath Prayer

INTRODUCTION: We continue our two week focus on prayer with a WOD on Breath Prayers.

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OBJECTIVE: Identify a personal breath prayer.

“Prayer can never be in excess.” — C. H. Spurgeon

TODAY’S STEPS

READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-25

REFLECT: The Thessalonians were a community of new believers that lived under the constant threat of religious persecution.  The persecution in Thessalonica was so intense that Paul, Timothy and Silas were not able to stay in the city very long.

This letter was written to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith walk (their JESUSrhythm you could say) and one of the directives they are given is to, “never stop praying.”  You could translate that as, “be in a constant state of prayer.

  • Do you tend to think of prayer more as “here and there petitions” or “an ongoing conversation“? Explain.
  • How does the phrase in verse 24, “He who calls you is faithful,” speak into your prayer life?

RHYTHM CHALLENGE:  Identify a breath prayer and integrate it into your inner dialogue.  Breath prayers are short, simple, repeatable prayers that are often taken straight from the Bible.  The goal is for this constant prayer to become so natural that we aren’t even always aware of it; similarly to how a song can get stuck in our head!  It is to pray as naturally as we breathe.

Repeating this prayer, keeping it ever in front of us, will help train our minds to be constantly conversing with Lord.  We want prayer to become our first reflex and our constant companion.  Think about our first reflexes.  For some of us, the first reflex to pain is to swear; the first reflex to conflict is to run; or our first reflex to victory is pride.   We want to develop a rhythm in which our first and ongoing reflex to the world around us is prayer.

RHYTHM HELPS:

Examples of Breath Prayers:

  • All things for your glory.
  • Lord have mercy.
  • Abba, I belong to you. (Brennan Manning’s breath prayer.)
  • All of me, all for you.
  • Holy Spirit, lead me.
  • Open my eyes to see more of you.
  • In Christ alone my soul finds rest.

Great Scriptures to Use for Breath Prayers (finding a song version really helps them stick):

  • Speak Lord, your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9-10)
  • Bless the Lord, Oh my soul. (Psalm 103:1)
  • The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  (Psalm 23:1)
  • Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit. (Psalm 62:1)
  • To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Remember to stay consistent with the 14|15 Challenge

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*Share your thoughts in the Comments.

But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear him.
”  Psalm 103:17

Just joining the JESUSrhythm conversation?   Check out the Welcome Page to get up to speed.

6Mar

Faith WOD .22 Meditative Prayer

INTRODUCTION: In our last WOD we identified a focused prayer and began a 14 day challenge to pray on that topic for 15 minutes a day.  Keeping our prayers focused on one thing can be harder than it sounds.  Today we will layer meditation into our prayers to quiet our hearts and open our ears to the Lord.

OBJECTIVE: Practice God honoring meditation.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” — Oswald Chambers

TODAY’S STEPS

READ: Matthew 26:36-46

REFLECT: This passage speaks to every one of us who has put our head on the pillow with the intent of praying and never got past the first few words.

  • Note, in contrast to the disciples, how Jesus prayed.
  • Note the specific focus of each of Jesus intense prayer sessions.
  • What things can keep you from “staying awake” in prayer?
  • In what ways would you like your prayer life to more reflect Jesus?

RHYTHM CHALLENGE:  Practice meditative prayer.  Meditative prayer is not seeking answers from within or an attachment to a fuzzy spiritual world as New Age philosophy teaches.  It is concretely meditating on the things of God.  Meditative prayer is talking to yourself about God and His word.  It is having a listening heart to God’s word.  It is focusing on Jesus.  It is closing our ears to all other voices, external and internal, and opening our ears to His voice alone.

RHYTHM HELPS:

Meditative Prayer Helps:

  • Eliminate distractions.  (leave phone in another room, turn off media, step away from other people)
  • Pay attention to your breathing.  (steady deep breathing helps to calm our minds and focus our thoughts.)
  • Capture wandering thoughts. (when they come, and they will, set them aside and focus.)
  • Practice (this is a discipline that will likely become more natural with repetition and may feel awkward at first.) 

Five ways to meditate on a verse.  Taken from a Saddleback church blog posting.

  1. Picture it – Visualize the scene in your mind.
  2. Pronounce it – Say the verse aloud, each time emphasizing a different word.
  3. Paraphrase it – Rewrite the verse in your own words.
  4. Personalize it – Replace pronouns or people in the verse with your own name.
  5. Pray it – Turn the verse into a prayer and say it back to God.

Pick one of those and apply it to this verse:

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”  Psalm 62:1-2

Remember to stay consistent with the 14|15 Challenge

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*Share your thoughts in the Comments.

“I pondered the direction of my life,
and I turned to follow your laws.
”  Psalm 119:59

Just joining the JESUSrhythm conversation?   Check out the Welcome Page to get up to speed.

3Mar

Faith WOD .21 Focused Prayer

INTRODUCTION: For the next two weeks we will be focusing our WODs exclusively on prayer.  Presented today is an invitation to enter a 2 week (14 day) time of focused prayer.  Our goal is to persistently speak to the Lord about one thing over 14 days for 15 minutes at a time.  We’re calling it the 14|15 challenge.

OBJECTIVE: Identify a focused prayer for the 14|15 prayer challenge.

 “To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” ~ Billy Graham

TODAY’S STEPS

READ: Daniel 9:1-19

REFLECT: Scripture’s historical account of Daniel shows him to be a man of committed prayer.  In fact, it was his discipline of praying three times a day that lead him to be put into the infamous lion’s den (Daniel 6).

  • Note the way in which Daniel prays.  What strikes you about how he engages God’s word and implores the Lord in prayer?
  • What do you see in Daniel’s prayer and/or approach to prayer that you would like to emulate?
  • Author Tim Keller says that we should listen to our sighs and that the things we sigh about should to be turned into prayers.  What sighs of your heart are you in need of taking to the Lord?

RHYTHM CHALLENGE:  Identify a focused prayer to bring before the Lord.  Write it down.  Put it in a place where you you see it everyday.  Keep it on your mind and set aside dedicated time (the 14|15 challenge) to lay it before the Lord.  Daniel prayed with dedication and purpose.  We want to do the same.

RHYTHM HELPS:

Things the Scripture tells us to pray for:

The 14|15 Challenge

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The video below is a teaching on Prayer.

*Share your thoughts in the Comments.

“Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
”  Psalm 86:1

Just joining the JESUSrhythm conversation?   Check out the Welcome Page to get up to speed.

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