Tag Archives: spirituality

Spiritual Disciplines For the Purpose of Godliness| Prayer | 3rd in Series

24 May

praying hands_opt“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7b NASB)

Prayer is an expression of our heart, an outpouring of intimacy, a loving dialogue with the Father.The Word of God makes it clear we are to participate in prayer.

The remainder of this article can be viewed here:

Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Spiritual Disciplines For the Purpose of Godliness| Prayer | 3rd in Series.

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Yes!

2 Mar

hope_opt“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” –Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, March 1, 2014

“Trent Koontz passed away this morning at 5:17am. He is still a shining light in our lives. Have fun in heaven! Give Jesus a big hug from all of us!” –Jerry Koontz via Trent Koontz’s Blog

As we absorb those words, joy and sorrow tangle together within grieving hearts. Such is the paradox of living a life in Christ. Simultaneously we rejoice and mourn; are crushed and unburdened and through it all the confident expectation of hope endures; singing a wordless song of unceasing faith. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
 –Emily Dickenson

It is hope rooted in the Gospel that creates equilibrium between the bone deep sorrow of loss and joyful trust in the sovereignty of God who works for our good. It is in this stability that we come to understand God’s infinite wisdom is inscrutable and his providence mysterious and that opposing emotions can coexist harmoniously. 

The Koontz family continues to be a powerful witness for Christ. In weakness their continued love for the Lord glorifies Him; highlighting the strength through grace His love poured out on that tree provided. 

It is here in the strange mix of contrary feelings (ache and brokenness, relief and joy) that our church body is also strengthened; growing in spiritual maturity as through shared suffering we stand in Christ with Jerry, Kristie, and Grant sadly rejoicing now that Trent is freed from the pain of illness and is with Jesus in Heaven.

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? (excerpt) by John Piper

When a Christian dies, shall those of us who remain weep or rejoice? The biblical answer is both, even simultaneously.

An Invitation to Rejoice

He [Paul] already told them why he rejoices at the prospect of his death: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Presumably, that is why he thinks they should rejoice also. They love Paul. So when Paul is “with Christ” that will be “far better.”

Experiencing Intense Sorrow

But that is not the whole story. Ten verses later in Philippians 2 Paul praises Epaphroditus because “he nearly died for the work of Christ.” But then he did not die. God had mercy on Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow [or]…grief on top of all his other burdens.

The Complex Harmony

We should conclude that our sorrows at the death of a believer are joyful sorrows, and our rejoicing at the death of a believer is a sorrowful rejoicing. There is nothing hopeless about the sorrow. And there is nothing flippant about the joy. The joy hurts. And the sorrow is softened with invincible hope. (emphasis mine)

This is why one of the most common watchwords of the Christian life is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrow and joy are not merely sequential. They are simultaneous. This is not emotional schizophrenia. This is the complex harmony of the Christian soul.

Therefore, when a Christian dies, don’t begrudge the tears. And don’t belittle the joy…

Read this article in its entirety here: Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Desiring God.

Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics |(Part 1)

8 Nov

authenti“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” –Matthew 5:6

Are your desires for the Lord and His kingdom strong or are you walking with one foot in the world, easily pleased by other things?

“We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” –C.S. Lewis

Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity

Do we Christians even understand what the buzzword means?

I was standing in the kitchen, talking to my husband, when he began to yawn. As most wives would, I teased him for his insensitivity. He replied, “I’m just being authentic.” In case you haven’t noticed, the “authentic” label is not just for antiquities or ethnic restaurants anymore. One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp recently posted on her blog: “I have felt it—how no one wants anything of anyone but to be honest and real and to trust enough to take off the mask.”

I have felt it, too. I am neither 20-something nor the least bit trendy. Still, authenticity has worked its way into my conservative evangelical life, making a regular appearance in my conversations with fellow Christians. Chances are you know someone who’s blogging or talking about being authentic: authentic life, authentic relationships, authentic community, authentic worship.

Christianity Today’s website designates “Authenticity” as one topic to classify its articles. Amazon.com sells more than 100 books under the search term “authentic Christian.”

Authentic is one of those slippery, know-it-when-you-see-it buzzwords. When I queried Andy Crouch, CT editor at large and author of Culture Making, about the word’s origins, he pointed me author Keith Miller. “His 1984 book The Taste of New Wine was a best-selling Christian distillation of both 1970s encounter groups and AA-style spirituality. I’m pretty sure his work was the catalyst by which authenticity became a specifically Christian aspiration.”

So authenticity is transparency and admission of failure. It’s the rejection of pretense and hypocrisy. It’s truth-telling about all areas of life.

I believe Christians can do authenticity best. We serve a God who is always truthful. Never lies. Never deceives. Has, in fact, defeated the Father of Lies. But I fear that without biblical thought, we may accept an inferior and postmodern version of tell-all, tolerate-all authenticity.

Excerpted from Megan Hill’s article :Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com.

Give Me a Quiet Mind and A Gentle Spirit

19 Sep

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” –1 Peter 3:3-4

“Some people mistakenly think that a gentle and quiet spirit is displayed when a woman never speaks. This has concerned some of the outgoing personalities because they don’t know how to be a silent lump. This is merely looking at externals. Certainly sometimes a quiet spirit will be exhibited by silence, but not always. And a quiet person can be all worked up on the inside. This is missing the point. A heart that is resting in the faithfulness of God is gentle and quiet; it is not stirred up with worry and anxiety. This gentle and quiet spirit is a calm, peaceful spirit. It is a tame spirit, a gentled spirit. I have often compared this kind of spirit to a glassy lake, not turbulent or troubled, but hardly showing a ripple. In contrast, the anxious spirit is like a stormy sea with whitecaps whipping along the shore. This of course brings to mind our Lord calming the troubled Sea of Galilee. Likewise, He can calm our troubled spirits when we look to Him.” –Nancy Wilson

Spend time in the Word and get to know and love the Lord. Trust in Him and let the inner beauty of your heart shine.

GIVE ME A QUIET MIND

When winds are blowing, waves are rising, falling
And all the air is full of dust and spray;
When voices, like to sea birds’ plaintive calling,
Confuse my day;

Then, then I know Thee, Lord of highest heaven
In newborn need discover Thee, and find
Nought can discomfort him to whom is given
A quiet mind.

When hopes have failed, and heavy sadness crusheth,
And doubt and fear would weave their deadly spell,
Then thought of Thee my troubled spirit husheth;
And all is well.

In midnight hours when weariness ignoreth
Heaven’s starry host, and battle wounds are mine,
Then Thy right hand uplifteth and outpoureth
Love’s oil and wine.

O Blessed Lord, beyond the moment’s sorrow
I see above, beaneath, before, behind–
Eternal Love. Give me today, tomorrow,
A quiet mind.

(From the collected poems of Amy Carmichael)

Adapted From: Give Me a Quiet Mind : Girls Gone Wise.

How Do We Hear?|By Actively Listening

26 Aug

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” –Romans 10:17

“When God speaks in your life, listen carefully, receive humbly, and  respond gratefully'” –Pastor Koetsier (TACC Sermon, Sunday, August 25)

Listen-Chinese340

Listen Carefully

“Whoever has ears, let them hear” –Matthew 11:15

The Chinese character for the verb “to listen” stresses the importance of using one’s whole body to hear. Eyes, ears, attention, and heart are presumed focused and actively engaged. Whether reading the Bible, meditating, or in prayer, listen with your whole being –quietly, patiently wait upon the Lord.

Receive Humbly

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you,which can save you Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says ” –James 1:21-22

Bible scholar W. E. Vine said that the Greek word for receive means “deliberate and ready reception of what is offered.” It is an obedient and meek acceptance of what God wants and acknowledging it is good.

 Respond Gratefully

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” –1Thessalonians 5:18

Outside of public/corporate worship within the church; honor, praise, and glorify God in private worship with prayer, singing, and thanksgiving.

How Do We Hear the Voice of Jesus?

by John Piper

Do you want to hear the voice of Jesus? So do I. The Father certainly wants us to. “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).

To which we cry, “Yes, Lord. Yes! We want to listen to him.”

Does he speak today? He does.

Every word of the Bible is the voice of Jesus.

How do we know this? By inference. And better, by experience…

View the remainder of the article here: How Do We Hear the Voice of Jesus? – Desiring God.

Revisit this previous post from TACC Connect to Women’s Ministries here: Hearing God…

Don’t Drink the Dirty Water|Drink in the Word of God

20 Aug

bible2

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 

–1 John 5:21

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind””

–Matthew 22:37

“F. W.Boreham spoke of Christ’s cross as “the climax of immensities, the center of infinities, and the conflux of eternities.”

“The infinite God of the universe –the King, has communicated to us His insurpassable love, sent an inexorable Savior, with unfathomable salvation. Does He really need to do anything else?”

–Pastor Burris Passion 2013: For Our Families 

The scope  and magnitude of God’s love for us is most spectacularly displayed upon the cross. How can we stand lukewarm –leaning on our own self sufficiency and self satisfaction –too comfortable, complacent, and apathetic, in the shadow of such enormity? 

“The essence of lukewarmness is the statement, “I need nothing.” The lukewarm are spiritually self-satisfied. To find out whether you are among that number, don’t look into your head to see if you think that you are needy; rather, look at your prayer life. It doesn’t matter what we think in our head, the test of whether we are in bondage to spiritual self-satisfaction is how earnest and frequent and extended our prayers for change are.

Do you seek the Lord earnestly and often in secret for deeper knowledge of Christ, for greater earnestness in prayer, for more boldness in witness, for sweeter joy in the Holy Spirit, for deeper sorrow for sin, for warmer compassion for the lost, for more divine power to love? Or is the coolness and perfunctoriness of your prayer life Exhibit A that you are spiritually self-satisfied and lukewarm?”

–John Piper adapted from: How to Buy Gold When You’re Broke

Don’t Drink the Dirty Water

LORE FERGUSON

We both drank from the same glass, our mouths leaving marks on opposite sides, a tall drink of water for the parched soul. This is what it is to come to the only Water that will quench our thirst: a shared glass, shared germs, shared experience, but only one Way, one Truth, one Life. Drinking from the same glass.

I tell a friend this morning that I feel straddled between two camps, and I don’t know how long I can sustain this position. I fear being viewed as tepid water. John writes of lukewarm water being spewed from the mouth of God (Rev. 3:16).

We’re drinking from a stagnant pond if we keep returning to the same story over and over and over again hoping to find resolution (Prov. 26:11). We’re drinking from a rusty tap if we don’t purify our words with fire (James 4:8), season them with salt (Col. 4:6), and sweeten them with honey (Ps. 119:103). We’re drinking from contaminated water if we believe that we’re the water others long for.

We’re drinking from water that will never satisfy if we’re not drinking from the Living Water (John 4:7-30).

Some of us come to the well at high noon, fearful to gather our drink where others in our camp might see us. Some of us come in the morning, with the masses, because to stand apart, to stand alone is too much for our approval starved hearts.

But Jesus? Jesus takes our chin in his hand, lifts up our eyes to where our help can only come, and shows us a better way, a more beautiful way. He calls our sin what it is so there is no opportunity to remain lukewarm or ignorant, but he also says the watering hole in which we find ourselves is no thirst-quencher at all.

He is Water and we drink from his glass alone.

Excerpted from: Don’t Drink the Dirty Water – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

Hearing Gods Voice 101 | Are YOU listening?

3 Aug

listen“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” –John 10:27

In what ways does God speak to you? Because we are all unique the way you hear God speak is also unique. Obedience to His will occurs when we hear and act with an open heart prepared to follow Him. Seek Him, spend time with Him, He is jealous for your time.

Hearing Gods Voice 101

Back to the basics: 5 reasons why you should engross yourself in Gods Word

I wish that I could give you a syllabus, prepare lectures, and let you complete a test so that you could drink it in—it being the ability to hear Gods voice. But its not that easy. Sometimes God invites us, like he invited Moses, into the “thick darkness” and communicates with us there. That’s what this is all about—going into the darkness and meeting God there. But before we head to those dark places, lets lay down some general rules about how God communicates with us.

  1. God most often does not communicate with us audibly. (Romans 10:17)
  2. God most often communicates with us through his word, the Bible. (Hebrews 4:12)
  3. You Must Read the Bible in Order to Hear God Speak (Matthew 4:4)
  4. Obey God’s Word If You Want to Hear His Voice (James 1:23)
  5. God Communicates With Us Through Other People (2 Timothy 2:21)

 

An in depth look at the above list can be read here: Hearing Gods Voice 101 | Todays Christian Woman

Soul Mates | Soulful Connections

30 Jul

couplepray“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” –Ephesians 5:25-33

Soul Mates

How to become more intimate with God and your spouse.

As newlyweds, one of the first times my husband, Tim, led me in prayer aloud, I made the awful mistake of laughing at him when he stumbled over his words! Many years into our marriage, Tim still remembers how uncomfortable I made him feel.

Most couples have difficulty developing an intimate spiritual life not just in the early stages of marriage, but throughout their lives. Yet there’s nothing more significant than consistently and intentionally coming together before God to know him better and to serve him more fully. Unfortunately, according to author Neil Clark Warren, only 10 to 15 percent of couples really enjoys true intimate spirituality.

The remainder of this article can be viewed here: Soul Mates | Today’s Christian Woman.

This link offers further exploration of spiritual intimacy among married couples: Soulful Connections | Today’s Christian Woman.

Ebenezers for a Parched Soul: Through the Dry Season

24 Jun

drynessAn ebenezer was a remembrance to mark God’s presence; His help, guidance, faithfulness and grace. We are probably not outdoors building stone remembrances but there are practical spiritual disciplines we can employ to remind us of His blessings and keep ourselves spiritually minded during the dry seasons.

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

  • Hearing, reading, and studying God’s Word, meditating, memorizing, and applying scripture, enables us to refocus on God’s deep love for us when we are thirsting for Him.
  • Praying through scripture alone, out loud and with others helps strengthen and grow our faith.
  • Journaling helps us to get deeper into God’s Word and provides a broader understanding of how God has worked in our lives as we reflect.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
 

Lean on the Lord during these arid times tuning your heart to Him and growing in trust.

Ebenezers for a Parched Soul (Excerpt)

Growing up in the church, I understood an ebenezer to be a marker set up to remember something that God has done in the past. The word is only mentioned briefly in Scripture. In I Samuel 7, Samuel raises a monument and calls it Ebenezer, which seems to mean a “stone of help.” It has come to mean, at least in some Christian circles, something set up as a reminder of God’s character or provision for His children.

I don’t plan to erect stone monuments to the Lord as Samuel did, but I do take note of the ways God has provided for me and what He has revealed to me of His character at different points in my life. I write them down. I journal them.

Some days, I am dry and thirsty, and I feel I can barely open my Bible in my discouragement, let alone tackle some new passage I’m supposed to be studying. On those days (which sometimes last for long seasons), ebenezers are a gift from God. He gave us great wisdom when He gave us the instruction, “Remember!”

If you are in a hard season, it’s easy to forget or diminish what God has done for you in the past. “If God really worked for me in the past, why am I having such struggles now?! Shouldn’t it be getting better?” But that has never been the nature of this journey of faith. Never, ever in Scripture is it portrayed as a steady positive climb. It’s portrayed as mountains and valleys, raging rivers and dry deserts. He leads us by still waters where we can drink deeply. But it is in preparation for walking through the valley of the shadow of death. His instruction to REMEMBER is key for surviving the drought and enduring through the valleys.

If you are struggling right now in such a season, I offer the simple suggestion that you go find some ebenezer from your own life. Engage with the reminders of how God has worked for you in the past. I believe you will find water for your thirsty soul that equips you to endure for the future.

Psalm 77 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

The article in its entirety can be viewed here: Practical Theology for Women: Ebenezers for a Parched Soul.

— Resting in Truth

5 Jun

rest“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!” Psalm 117:1-2

It can be difficult for us to wrap our minds around the scope of love, mercy, and faithfulness that comprise the immutable nature of God when our own nature is often fickle and noncommittal. Mistakes and struggles with sin can obscure our ability to truly hear the Word leaving us feeling spiritually deserted. It may be tempting during these dry times to abandon the Bible altogether when meditation on scripture and a refilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what is needed to satisfy our thirsty soul. D. L. Moody (a noted evangelist), when asked why we needed a refilling of the Holy Spirit, reportedly replied, “Because I leak.” He also said, “The only way to keep a broken vessel full is to keep it under the faucet.” Keep yourself immersed in the Word, in prayer, in the hope of the cross and as the following article reminds, “rest in the Truth.”

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” 3 John 1:4

Resting in Truth

She sits on the edge of the crowd. The trials she has overcome, the difficulties combated, sketched across her face. The women have been talking all around her. Just as the conversation seems to be coming to a close, she speaks.

Weak. Barely above a whisper.  She says, “I’ve learned that despite the way I feel, His love never changes.”

When the conversation ends, I want to run over and hug her. Oh, have I have ever been there?! I want her to know she is not alone and that I am proud of the strength and dignity she has displayed. That was not an easy task making herself known among these women, deeply; only to be swept aside moments later.

There are days when I, too, feel as if all hope is gone. I must speak truth into my own heart. He does not change like my crazy emotions; one day they are steady and sure and the next they are tossed to and fro by the wind. But, how can I do that if I don’t know who He is?

I need truth. I need hope. I need life…

The remainder of the article can be viewed here: LifeWay Women All Access — Resting in Truth.

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