Tuesday, April 4, 2017

EmmDev 2017-04-06 [Lent2017] Lent Worship Lifestyle 5/5 (Seasons)

Lent Worship Lifestyle 5/5 (Seasons)

"Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."      (Luke5:34-35)
Our final watering can of worship sounds simple, but is actually profound and can hold the key to consistent spiritual growth rather than the "up and down" patterns many of us experience.

If one thinks of the physical seasons, there are practices that are appropriate for each season.

  • In spring we plant and prepare. It is a hopeful time
  • In summer we nurture the abundant growth we see. It is a joyful time.
  • In Autumn we harvest and store. It is a thoughtful time.
  • In Winter we rest and recuperate. It is a simple time of rest.

Jesus recognised that there would be seasons in the life of the disciples. We need to apply the seasons idea to our walk with God. The seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring are not necessarily the only seasons we experience (I think there can be seasons like grief or revival) but they make a helpful basic framework to reflect on.

Our spiritual practices need to be appropriate for each season and we need to adjust our expectations for each season:

  • In Summer we enjoy the bounty and fullness of blessing and growth. Our spiritual practices are Bible reading, grateful prayers, abundant activity and bearing lots of fruit. We are joyful, content and slip easily into spiritual practices.
  • In Autumn we sense winter coming. This needs to be a time of preparation. We harvest fruit from God's word and our fellowship times and store it up for the winter. We tend to be reflective and we need to be disciplined about filling the store-houses.
  • In Winter we slow down our frantic activity and rest. We focus on essentials. Very often we are facing the cold winds of disappointment and the frost of failure. This is often a time of introspection, confession and repentance - it's like the slow growth that makes the dark rings in a tree stump - it gives the wood its strength.
  • In Spring we are hopeful about the new growth that comes after the slow-down of winter. We thoughtfully inculcate the practices and disciplines of growth in anticipation of the summer that is coming.

Many of us try to live in the spiritual practices and disciplines of summer and we feel guilty when we can't keep up summer disciplines in seasons of autumn and winter.

When we are more creative about our devotional lives and adjust our spiritual practices, attitudes and expectations to fit the spiritual season we are in, we will grow.
This rounds off our reflections on the five watering cans of worship and our reflections for Lent. The EmmDevs are going to take a break until 1 May.

I pray that you experience a blessed celebration of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday and that your Lent journey leads to a summer season of growth and fruitfulness.

With much love,

EmmDev 2017-04-05 [Lent2017] Lent Worship Lifestyle 4/5 (Fellowship)

Lent Worship Lifestyle 4/5 (Fellowship)

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The Christians who first read the letter to the Hebrews suffered greatly for their faith. They expected that Jesus would return very very soon, and the extent of their suffering certainly heightened their expectation. Because they believed that 'the end was nigh' they narrowed their focus to the things that were really really important. It is therefore very significant that getting together with other Christians was considered to be one of these important issues.The purpose of getting together was encouragement.

When we were in Grahamstown, I visited a lady who was going through a very rough time. She had this to say: "There are times that I am so low when I come to church, that the hymns, the sermon, and the prayers all mean nothing to me. What keeps me going is to look around at the other 200 people who have come: The young, old, healthy or frail who have taken the trouble to get up on an ice-cold morning to sit on a hard pew, sing ancient old hymns and listen to words from a 2000 year old book. Then I know that it is real and I am encouraged!"

But the encouragement does not only come from everyone's presence: It is the kind word over tea, the thoughtful enquiry to one's well-being, the timely offer of assistance, the hearing of the preached Word, and so many other possibilities.

Fellowship is not confined to Church on Sundays. Ideally we should all be part of a midweek fellowship group that gives us the faith top-up we need. Someone once said: "Coming to church is like coming to the big gathering of the extended family with all the aunts, uncles, babies, grandparents, and all the rest - It's good and it's fun. But coming to a fellowship group is like coming home to one's immediate family."

Skipping church is a bad habit - it is easier to get into the habit of not going than it is to get into the habit of going regularly. Giving Sunday morning worship a miss is something we should do with great hesitance and only with very good reason. And when we go, we should not only go to be encouraged or ministered to. Maybe there is someone you can say a kind or thoughtful word to. We're to go to "spur each other on" not only to be spurred on.

Fellowship is the vital fourth watering can of a life of worship.

EmmDev 2017-04-04 [Lent2017] Lent Worship Lifestyle 3/5 (Surrender)

Lent Worship Lifestyle 3/5 (Surrender)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."      (Luke22:42)
These words, uttered by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before He carried our sin on the cross, epitomise the ultimate act of surrender.

This is our third watering can for a lifestyle of worship.

Surrender: A White Flag. I yield. I submit. I give.

During Lent many of us fast - we give up chocolate or facebook or some other habits as though to say: "God, You are more important than this."

Surrender can take a number of forms:

  1. We might need to admit our pride, that we've tried to be our own gods - we've worshipped at the altar of ego.
  2. Sometimes we need to confess a sin that has become a bad habit and then we need take concrete steps to break this habit. Many years ago a colleague gave me his laptop and said "make it so that I can't go to websites where I look at things I shouldn't". It cost him his pride, but he was serious about beating his addiction and surrendering to God.
  3. It could be that we have attitudes of entitlement or judgement that cause us to see ourselves as better than, more deserving than others and we seek to be served rather than to serve.
  4. Materialism and comfort can become the core purpose of our lives. We need to relinquish the hold our stuff has on us.

There are many things that can take a hold of our lives. Surrender is to yield to God's plan and purpose for our lives.

John Wimber tells the story of his grandson watching a "cops and robbers" series on TV and when an arrest scene came up and the "baddie" had his hands in the air, Wimber's grandson said "Is he worshipping?"

When we lift our hands in worship it is a symbolic form of surrender - we're saying: "I yield. I give. You're the boss. You're right - I'm wrong. You're God - I'm not.

What do you need to surrender to God this Lent season?

When we do this - when we surrender - we, like the prodigal son, will discover that surrender doesn't lead to handcuffs, but the Father's embrace and a robe, a ring and a feast!