Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday Preview for February 15: Stay in Love with God

This is the final part of our study on Reuben Job's Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, which is a modern adaptation of John Wesley's General Rules. Let me say this: Job's book is very readable, and his tone is one of much grace and encouragement. I would encourage EVERYONE to read this book! The last section is a guide to daily prayer that is truly helpful and practical.

This last segment of Job's work is phrased "stay in love with God". Wesley phrased this rule "Attend unto the means of grace". Wesley was telling us to stay connected to God. I personally like this phrasing much better than "Stay in love with God". "Stay in love with God" may sound sappy and unattainable. How do we love God? Is it a feeling? How do we stay in love with God if we are not sure if we have loved God in the first place?

Lets go back to the Scripture we began the whole study with: Matthew 22.36-40. This Scripture tells us that the first commandment (most important--first in priority) is to love God. This cannot refer to the feeling we would routinely call love. How can you command a feeling? The second part of this Scripture tells us to love our neighbor. Again, this may be--at the same time--easier to comprehend and harder to do. We can comprehend loving another person whom we can see and with whom we can interact. However, seeing that person and interacting with them may make loving them (in the routine sense of the word) more difficult! It is obvious to me that Jesus is saying "act toward them in a loving way--regardless of your feelings." That can be commanded, and it can be obeyed. So, how does this relate to the first part of the Scripture: love God? We must interpret this to be comprehended also. What does it mean to love God? It means to give God your total allegiance; to make your first allegiance be to God above all else and all others. This is not something we are going to do once and be done with it. It is not something we are ever going to do perfectly. But it is the target--the goal--for which we strive. It is what we continually bring ourselves back to when we find ourselves being led around by other allegiances. It is a decision. It is a matter of the will, not the feelings, and it can be commanded.

But, I can make this easier. Here's how: I believe that God is infinitely good, infinitely kind, infinitely lovable. The more I know about God (in Jesus) and the closer I bring myself to God, the more I will love God, the more I will see that giving God my first allegiance is the best and only sensible thing to do. The more I know about God and the closer I bring myself to God, the more I will want to give my first allegiance to God. Yes, it is counter-productive to command feelings. But as I know God, feelings may come. Of course, feelings may go, too. That is why the main issue here is obeying God's command to give God my first loyalty, my first allegiance in all things.

If my first allegiance is to God, I must stay connected with God. How can you be loyal if you do not know the wishes of your Lord? So, I make it a priority in my life to stay connected with God. Wesley encourages this by telling us to attend unto the means of grace. What mediates God's grace into your life? Well, do those things! Included in the means of grace are the sacraments: baptism and communion. Also included are spiritual practices.

Here is why attending to the means of grace is such a big deal: (in fact there are several reasons)
>I will grow in my love for and allegiance to God the more I know God.
>The only way to follow God (do no harm, do good) is to listen for God's leading. Life is complex. How can we know the way? God directs us. God can direct us best when we pay attention to God.
>As I receive inspiration and encouragement and grace and love from God, I am able to share the same with those around me.

And this only scratches the surface. What are other reasons for attending to the means of grace/practicing spiritual disciplines can you think of?

Three Books and Three Websites about Spiritual Practices:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster--the BEST book on spiritual practices
Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson
The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life by Tony Jones
Spiritual Disciplines Introduction
[and follow the links on the left for the rest of the chapters]

Worship bulletin for February 15, 2009 is here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Monday Review: DO GOOD

Re-read the Scriptures from Sunday.

3 John 11 What do you think are the implications of this verse? What are all of the ideas/truths that we can take away from it?

Luke 6.27-28 What truths do we see from these verses about doing good? Is Jesus asking too much of us?

Acts 10.38 Peter was one of the people who followed Jesus. He literally lived with Jesus night and day for almost 3 years. He heard Jesus teach and saw the miracles Jesus did. What did Peter take away from that experience? One thing was this: Jesus went about doing good.

Matthew 16.24-26 Doing good may be simple, but it is not easy. Who are some of the people to whom you will find it difficult to do good? What are some situations in which you will find it difficult to do good?

I displayed the chart based on the General Rules of Wesley with the Jerusalem Cross. I found this chart in the works of Steven Manskar. The sheet I handed out is here. I took some of my ideas from Manskar's Opening Ourselves to Grace, which is worth reading.