Weekly Reading Plan – March 22-29, 2020

DAY 1 – GAL 3.13-26 – PRAY FOR CHANCES TO LOVE

DAY 2 – 1 COR 13 – PRAY FOR HOW TO GIVE REAL AGAPE LOVE

DAY 3 – 1 JOHN 3:11-18 – PRAY AGAINST APATHY

DAY 4 – 1 JOHN 4:7-21 – PRAY FOR AN INTIMATE CHURCH FAMILY

DAY 5 – PROVERBS 19:22 – PRAY FOR RIGOROUS HONESTY

  1. What are the fruit of the Spirit? How does love fulfill all commands? Can you love without serving? Why is love listed first? How would love preclude the works of the flesh? How would love create the other fruit? How are the other fruit necessary for love? 
  2. What is LOVE? Where do we learn to love? Is love an emotion? Are there different kinds of love? If so, what kind is this? What makes you feel most loved? How do you try to love people? How do you show your love? 
  3. How does 1 Cor 13 define a successful life? How do Americans tend to define success? What’s the difference? Can you be really religious without being good at love? How hard to people try? Are you better at religious show or love? 
  4. What do verses 4-8 teach you about love? Replace the word love with your name and reread it. How did that sound? Are you characterized by by love according to this text? What attributes of love do you most lack? 
  5. What did John learn about love from Jesus? What does it mean to hate someone? Why is hatred equal to murder? Who do you hate or resent? What would it take to love and forgive them? 
  6. Where does 1 John 3:16 teach us love? Who would you die for? Does Jesus really expect us to be willing to die for church members? How is this different than we usually think about church? How does your love measure against 1 John 3:17-18? Do you have pity or suspicion for needy people? 
  7. How can we fight against the cliché in 1 John 4? Who initiates the love in 1 John 4:7-12? Do you initiate love like that towards others? Who keeps loving even when the recipient rejects it? Do you persist in loving difficult people? 
  8. Christians are supposed to love supernaturally, more than anywhere else on the planet. Do they? Have you ever felt more love, acceptance, belonging, care elsewhere (perhaps in a club, sports team, bar)? Why? Why are churches not known for our love?
  9. What is one thing you could do to make Oakland a more radically loving place? What is one thing Oakland could do collectively? 
  10. According to Prov 19:22, what is the basis of all love? Is it possible to be love and lie? Why would we? How do lies, even small ones, destroy intimacy? 

BLOG – A Simple Way to Help Your Self-quarantining Neighbors

Loving God and Loving People are not optional even during an epidemic,

BUT HOW?

Many of you are looking for ways to help your neighbors and friends during this time. If you are still willing to run errands for people you could post it on your neighborhood social media page. You could take prayer requests on the same page. Perhaps you could circulate a card like this on mailboxes with your name and contact information.

Other ways to help:

  • Offer to babysit for friends or family who must still work.
  • Buy gift cards to small businesses trading cash now for services later.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.

Weekly Reading Plan – March 15-22 – Trade Up for Joy

DAY 1 – GAL 3.13-26 – PRAY FOR EASY REJOICING

DAY 2 – NEH 8 – PRAY FOR HOW TO PARTY

DAY 3 – ISAIAH 35 – PRAY FOR EXUBERANCE

DAY 4 – 1 CHRON 16 – PRAY FOR UNRESTRAINED PRAISE

DAY 5 – PHIL 4 – PRAY FOR CONTENTMENT

  1. What are the fruit of the Spirit? What is the freedom of Gal 5? Who is more joyful than liberated people? What have you been liberated from? What has God saved you from? Are you as grateful as a freed slave or rescued P.O.W.? Spend time pondering this freedom until you find joy.
  2. What is Joy? What does it mean to Rejoice? Is Joy an emotion? If so, is it fair for God to command us to feel certain emotions? If not, what is it? Can I rejoice even when I don’t feel like it? Can I practice Joy even when I am not “happy”? 
  3. Who is the most fun person you know? The person that you enjoy being with the most? That is the easiest to laugh with and makes you want to dance? How can you learn from them? 
  4. How do the people initially respond to the reading of God’s Word in Nehemiah 8? Why are they crying? Happy tears, overwhelmed, conviction? Have you ever cried in worship/prayer or have you muted all your emotions in church? 
  5. What does God want his people to do in Nehemiah 8? What would this look like at Oakland? What would this look like in your personal devotions? How could you party like the Hebrews? Would you? Why or why not? 
  6. What kind of joy does Isaiah 35? When does Isaiah expect this kind of joy to come? How does Jesus open the doorway to this kind of Joyful behavior? 
  7. What barriers stand in the way of our exuberance? Why stops us from acting more joyfully? What attitudes or fears or sins?
  8. Why are the people so excited in 1 Chronicles 16? Why are the excited about the ark? How do they show it? Where is the ark now? Where is the Holy Presence now? Does this amaze and excite you like David? Why or why not? 
  9. How does singing coach us towards joy? What other actions make us more likely to rejoice? To laugh and release good endorphins? 
  10. Entitlement and familiarity destroy joy. How have you found the 6 days of fasting and 1 feast day rhythm helping you enjoy and appreciate things in new ways?
  11. What does Phil 4 teach us about joy? What doe Paul know about joy that you don’t? What is the difference between his mental health and emotional stability compared to yours? Why do think this is? 

POST: Why We Party On Easter

Think of the times we party. Now think of the times we absolutely lose our mind in celebration. When Carolina wins a National Title, there is a riot on Franklin Street with trash fires and flipped cars. When Duke wins, students dance around huge bonfires built from all the wooden benches on campus. When Philly wins a Super Bowl no one and no street lamp is safe. When the Allies defeated Germany and Japan, the streets flooded with strangers kissing and dancing together.

We party on Easter, because Easter is the greatest day in history.

Greater than National Championships or even National Victories. Jesus defeated more than Germany, he defeated the actual Axis of Evil. Jesus stomped out more than the Blue Devils, he crushed the actual Devil. He defeated Death and Sin and Hell. All our enemies have been conquered and they now fight a retreating, losing, guerilla battle against God’s Elect.

We party because Jesus wins. The day Jesus died was the worst day in history – God came close enough for us to hug him or hurt him, and we nailed him to a tree, and yet we now call the day “Good Friday” and wear miniature versions of the torture device as jewelry. Why? Because God transformed the worst moment in human history into the best moment – the moment our salvation was accomplished and our sin – the very sin of nailing Jesus – was forgiven.

Easter proves it. Our sin is forgiven, our sentence served, our debt is paid and the empty tomb proves the super abundance of God’s provision. Sin does not win. The devil will not win in your life or your marriage. Brokenness is not final. Pain is not pointless. All crosses, both the ones we suffer and the ones we built, will end in resurrection. That is the point of our art projects, which transform trash into treasure. We built beauty from all recycled materials to remind us that our brokenness too will be transformed.

So we party. And maybe, must one day, our children, our youth, and ourselves will wake up after years away from church, in the midst of immense spiritual agony, and remember a little brick church that parties every Easter, because Jesus is alive, and there is hope for all broken people. Our children may not remember Sunday School lessons or sermons, but hopefully they remember art projects and shouts of victory.

Party on Children. Party on.

BLOG – Anything is Possible

The following is from the February 2019 Acorn.

Dear Oakland,

My December was overwhelmed with a single thought and a single life changing encounter. You’ve heard it before, but do you really believe them?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD.

THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.

The Monday after we canceled church for snow, I ran into Joe David, Joy, and Brittany at Ugly Mug Coffee Shop. Joy and Brittany are both educators, so our conversation turned to difficult children in school.

As a special needs teacher, Brittany explained how she’s learned to love difficult children even when they hurt her, push her away, and curse her. She’s seen that if she can love them more than they fight her, love will change them, soften them, and transform them. Love will overcome their fear, anger, and poor coping mechanisms.

Love that loves even when I fight back. Love that keeps loving even when it is rejected. Love that keeps coming even if it involves being rejected, despised, and injured. Love that risks rejection for the sake of redemption. THAT SOUNDS LIKE JESUS DOESN’T IT?!

In the church, we call that kind of undeserved, unconditional love, “GRACE, AMAZING GRACE,” and we are given grace upon grace in Jesus who chases us down while we kick, bite, scream, pout, and crucify to get our own way.

Brittany has learned to replicate Jesus’ grace even though she’s only been following Jesus in church for a little over a year. It’s so cool, how the Holy Spirit has been teaching her GRACE and using her to give GRACE for years. Grace before I know what Grace is, is called “Prevenient Grace” by theologians.

Brittany told me about this specific boy who cusses her and attacks her and other kids when he doesn’t get his way. Still, her relentless GRACE is changing him. Then she said, “It just makes me so sad, cause you know he’s learned that behavior from somewhere. Gotta be from mom and dad cause he’s not learning it at school.”

And my heart broke. It broke because you’ve taught me to empathize like Jesus rather than judge like the old me always did.

I almost cried as I said, “Brittany, I’m so thankful God put you in that little boy’s life to GRACE him as he learns a different way to communicate and a different way to get his needs met. But what about his mom and dad. Where do they learn this stuff? That boy can go to school and be changed by GRACE, but what about his mom and dad, where can they go to learn how to communicate, to love, to forgive, to be moms and dads, to be husbands, and to adult? Where they can go even where they’ll be GRACED and LOVED even while they still cuss and fight back and resent? Where can they go? Where will they learn how to love and be loved?”

Joe and Joy and Brittany all looked at each other trying to think about where in this world grown people can go to learn honesty, integrity, spirituality, forgiveness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, self-control. Where can they go to be liberated from harmful habits and unhelpful coping mechanisms? Where can their character defects be removed and lives redeemed?

There are only 2 places I can think of, and the second grew out of the first. The Second is Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step Groups like it.

The first is the Church. A place for difficult people to be loved over and over again. Even when they try to push us away, we keep loving them. Even when they curse us, we bless. Even when they sin, we forgive. A place where train wrecks are welcome and loved even as they are transformed. A place where the only requirement is a desire to know God and let God change you. A desire not a dress code or decorum or diploma or accomplishment is the only requirement. A mustard seed of faith in God and hope for healing.
The Church is the only such place. The Church is the only hope for such families and such people. They didn’t learn it from their parents, they didn’t learn it in the Army, or on the job. They won’t learn grace and be transformed by grace by watching TV or going to counseling, but by following Jesus with other sinners. The church is the only place where the transformative power of grace can reach them FOR FREE. The only place so wonderfully, gracefully stubborn enough to put up with difficult, needy people until God’s love transforms them.

It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me.

It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me. I am one of those unlovely people who came into a church with a pile of regret and a suitcase of resentments. I owned suits and spoke refined English, but I was full of deceit, cowardice, people-pleasing, selfishness, and fear not to mention covetousness, lust, and anger. Where am I going to learn to trust Jesus not just with my eternal salvation, but my daily life and my inner character. Where am I going to learn gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, empathy, and grace? Friends, the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you. You are the ones teaching me how to listen to my wife, to settle disagreements civility, to subjugate my wants to others’ needs, and so much more.

the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you.

Church is where the prideful learn humility, where the vindictive learn forgiveness, where the greedy learn generosity. This is where the person with no friends learns to make friends, the person who has never been loved learns to be loved, the person who’s always right learns to be a sinner, the person who’s never been good enough learns to belong, the person with cancer learns to persevere, the person with an unplanned child learns to parent, where emotionally absent dads learn to be present, where the spoiled learn to serve, where the shy learn to talk to strangers, and where the blabbermouths learn to shut up.

The encounter reinvigorated my whole ministry. It reminded me and convinced me practically.

Anything is possible at Oakland, because anything is possible with God.

Oakland is the hope of the world.

In God’s Church, in Oakland, transformation is always possible. No one is too far gone to repent, too unlovely to be loved, too broken to be mended, too rebellious to be the prodigal, too drunk to get sober, too sick to get healed, too lost to be found, too addicted to be liberated, too deceived to get honest, too cynical to meet Jesus, because OAKLAND is a place to meet Jesus and learn to follow him, because Oakland is a place where the grace of God must be as tangible and visible as the wind in the trees and the sun on our skin. If we always point to Jesus and love one another like Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

We are the hope of the world. Not government, not PBS, not better education, not better rules. ONLY JESUS AND HIS CHURCH. Only the church. Only the church can teach people not to blame, hide, lie, or practice self-righteousness, but to surrender their wills and lives to the care of God, who has proved his love by sending Jesus to save us.

BLOG – The Gospel according to the Grinch

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This devotional was written for Oakland's Family Advent Workbook. The hope is that our children couldn't think about the Grinch without thinking about Jesus. We don't want to reject all the secular trappings outright, we want to trace them to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and reign.

Find time to read or watch How the Grinch Stole Christmasas a family. Then take some time, maybe over cookies and milk or hot cocoa to chat about Jesus.

How did The Grinch remind you of Jesus or a Bible story?

Why did the Grinch hate Christmas?

Why did the Grinch do mean things?

Why do you do mean things sometimes?

What does the Grinch expect to happen when the Whos wake up?

What actually happens?

How does the singing affect the Grinch? Why?

Have you ever seen someone celebrate/sing even when bad things happen?

What does the Grinch do when his heart changes?

What does the Grinch learn about Christmas?

What is Christmas all about to you?

Every good story is good because it echoes the one great story of God’s rescuing love in Jesus that changes our hearts. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch hates Christmas because his heart is 2 sizes too small. A bad heart leads to bad actions (stealing Christmas) and even delights in the pain caused by bad actions. This gives us a picture of Sin. Sin is a heart problem, a heart that is all about me and what I want. All the bad things we call “sins” are really symptoms of Sin, the heart condition. We all need Jesus to change our hearts.

When the Grinch steal Christmas, he expects the Whos to cry and boo-hoo, but instead they sing. The still celebrate Christmas because, “Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

All who have come to know the true meaning of Christmas can celebrate even when bad things happen. Even when bad things happen, Christians can celebrate because God is good, and at Christmas God sent his son to rescue us. Even if we have no presents under the tree, we can celebrate the present given on a tree – Jesus on a cross.

When people see us celebrate Jesus at Christmas more than the lights, ribbons, bows, and boxes, they will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and their hearts will change like the Grinch’s heart changed. Especially, when we invite them into our celebrations.

BLOG: The Gospel According to Frosty The Snowman

Here's an idea for worship on a snow day.

This devotion is based on the 1969 TV Special Frosty The Snowman. It is only 25 minutes long, so find time to watch it with your family and then discuss how Frosty points to Jesus. 

How did Frosty remind you of Jesus or a Bible story?

What makes Frosty different from other snowmen?

What does Frosty add to the children’s lives?

Who adds joy and fun to your life?

Why does Frosty need to get to the North Pole?

Why can’t Frosty keep Karen warm?

When Frosty has to choose between saving Karen’s life or saving his own, what does he choose?

When have you had to choose between what was good for you and what was good for someone you loved?

Does Frosty stay dead?

 

            Every good story is good because it echoes the one great story of God’s rescuing love for us in Jesus. Frosty echoes Jesus really clearly. First, Frosty comes to really live in our world. The world doesn’t know what to with him, but he brings life and joy to all the boys and girls who follow him on the parade. He loves the children who follow him and they love him, but not everyone loves Frosty, and Professor Hinkle wants to kill him for selfish reasons.

In the same way, Jesus comes to really live in our world and brings life and joy to all who will follow him, but many people chose not to follow him. Like Professor Hinkle, the Pharisees and Romans decide to kill Jesus for selfish reasons.

When Frosty heads north with Karen, the cold is good for him, but deadly for Karen. Karen needs to stay warm or die, but if he helps warm her up, he will melt. Frosty has to decide between dying to save the one he loves or abandoning his love to save his own life. He would rather die than let Karen die.

Likewise, Jesus could either avoid the cross and abandon sinners like us, or he could save sinners like us by dying on the cross. Jesus chooses to love us even when it means he must die. He trades his life for ours.

In Frosty, Santa shows up and brings Frosty back to life, explaining that he will go live at the North Pole till he comes again. When Jesus was unfairly killed to save us, whom he loves, he did not stay dead. God the Father raised him from the dead. Jesus is with God the Father in Heaven, but he too will come again someday soon to rescue us completely. Until then, we know that Jesus, like Frosty, would rather die than live without us.

BLOG – Training Smarter Not Trying Harder

Last year, John Ortberg (my favorite preacher), preached a sermon, "Feasting as Fasting" that wrecked me wonderfully.

 

In it he said:

How many of you could go out right now today and run (not walk, run) every step of a marathon? I'll put it a second way. How many of you could go out right now and run (not walk) every step of a marathon today if you tried really, really hard? Not many more.

Now my guess is a lot of us, maybe most of us, could eventually run a marathon if we did one thing, and that is to train. What does it mean to train? To train means I arrange my life around those activities that enable me to do what I cannot now do by direct effort. We tend to overestimate what we can do by trying really hard and underestimate what we can do by training. As a general rule (this is just wisdom about the human condition), transformation involves training, not just trying.

This is true in athletics. It's true of music or intellectual life. It is no less true of character formation or spiritual life. This is why Paul says, "...train yourself to godliness." This is why Jesus says, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher." So now the spiritual disciplines are practices or activities that train us or give us power to live in the goodness of the kingdom.

I know. Words like discipline or training are awful words. They just sound really unattractive. Who wants to do that? This is really key. Spiritual disciplines are not necessarily unpleasant. What discipline you need to practice depends on for what you're training. If you're training for a race, you will need to practice running. If you were training for a pie-eating contest, what would you need to do? You would need to practice eating a lot of pie. If you eat a lot of pie every day, a year from now, you'll be able to eat much more pie than you could today by trying really hard.

Please watch the whole thing or read the transcript if you want to be encouraged and fall in love with the Spiritual Disciplines.

As I ruminated on that insight, God showed me an incredible correlation between the Fruit of the Spirit and the Spiritual Disciplines.

According to Galatians 5:22, the Fruit of the Spirit are:

  • love, 

  • joy,

  • peace, 

  • forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 

  • gentleness

  • self-control.

Are you experiencing the spiritual fruit in your life?

Which ones are not coming?

Why are these fruit not coming?

  • Are you a Christian? Do you have the Spirit?
  • Are you cultivating the fruit of the flesh?
  • Are you cultivating the fruit of the Spirit?

Are you trying harder or training smarter to partner with Jesus to grow these fruit?

 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the Apostle Paul writes:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

The Apostle Paul wants us to train ourselves and order every area of our lives to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit. I am not saying that we can produce the fruit any more than a farmer can make plants grow - ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT. But every good farmer still tills, fertilizes, waters, and tends while depending on God to provide the increase. We do the same spiritually. The tools, rhythms, or training exercises the Bible lays out for us are often called Spiritual Disciplines.

Here is a non-exhaustive list.

Spiritual Disciplines:

  • worship
  • study
  • prayer
  • service
  • evangelism,
  • fasting,
  • stewardship,
  • silence
  • secrecy
  • sabbath
  • solitude,
  • journaling,
  • learning.
  • confession,
  • accountability,

 

  • celebration,
  • affirmation,
  • meditation,
  • singing,
  • simplicity,
  • submission,
  • worship,
  • guidance,
  • hospitality,
  • gratitude.

Worship, Prayer, Study, Service – are basic assumed practices that inform all the fruit. But just as in atheletic training there are exercises that target certain muscle groups, so too in the spiritual realm there are certain exercises to target certain spiritual muscles (fruit). Let's briefly work through each Fruit of the Spirit and identify training exercises I can imploy to allow God to conform me to Jesus. 

Love:

  • Service – act lovingly until you love
  • Community – learn to love real people in all their messiness and be loved. Be in real enough community that you know annoying habits and love anyways
  • Evangelism – Supreme gift of love to share the gospel.
  • Worship – let God love you, so you can love others.
  • Hospitality -

Joy:

  • Celebration – Music, food, people, parties, celebrate every little thing
  • Gratitude – make a gratitude list
  • Worship – Enjoy God
  • Feasting – the world is more delicious than it has to be

Peace

  • Solitude – be alone with God.
  • Silence – Don’t speak, just let God speak.
  • Confession – guilty consciences know no peace
  • Prayer – carry all anxiety to God in a fear inventory

Forbearance

  • Accountability – intimate community of carrying one another’s faults and pushing one another alone. Covenant fellowship.
  • Confession – Admit your own faults to another human being to humble yourself when you want to judge others
  • Silence - hold your tongue regularly so you can hold it when angry
  • Community – carry other’s burdens.
  • Prayer – resentment inventories

Patience

  • Fasting – wait on food, you can wait longer than you thought
  • Service - intentionally put others ahead of you in checkout lines and parking spaces. Delay yourself to convenience others.
  • Silence – hold your tongue, save your words, quick to listen, slow to speak
  • Mediation – Stay open, listen without presenting requests to God.

Kindness

  • Service – Do something gracious and unseen
  • Stewardship – set aside money, so you don’t have an excuse not to bless someone
  • Affirmation – Speak life over others. Call out their God given gifts. Bless them.

Goodness

  • Accountability – Push one another towards godliness, set standards of life and hold one another up
  • Submission/Guidance – invite a wiser Christian to help you examine your shortcomings and grow you in Godliness.
  • Confession – name failures
  • Study – study God’s goodness, know his holiness, hide his word in your heart that you might not sin against him.

Faithfulness

  • Community – 90% of life is just showing up
  • Stewardship – Keep your commitments
  • Accountability – keep your word
  • Truth Telling – Yes/No

Gentleness

  • Submission/Guidance – Submit yourself to someone who is gentle and learn from how they respond to your mistakes and when you make them angry
  • Journaling – process your emotions before you speak and try on the words you will say
  • Silence – train yourself to hold your tongue

Self-Control

  • Fasting – say no and depend on God. You will not die if you do not sin.
  • Simplicity – live below your means
  • Stewardship – Give it away so you don’t have it.

 

Since Spiritual Disciplines are not regularly taught or trained, it maybe helpful to now define in brief outline what these disciplines are. For a further treatment PLEASE READ CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE BY RICHARD FOSTER or RUNNING ON EMPTY BY FIL ANDERSON.

Brief Explanation of Each Spiritual Discipline

  • Corporate worship– This is time in regular worship with others. IT involves singing, preaching, prayers, and fellowship. I never follow Jesus alone, and being with others trains me to defer to others’ needs and preferences, while forgiving and confessing faults.
  • Bible Study– We must schedule time to study God’s word. A simple method involves reading and writing a verse of Scripture and then answering the questions – What does this teach me about God? About humans? What command should obey? What example should I imitate? A more thorough Bible Study is called Inductive Bible Study and resources are available on our website and others to train one to study the Bible closely.
  • Prayer– Prayer should happen all the time, but I learn to pray spontaneously by praying regularly. I schedule time to pray often beginning and ending the day and at mealtimes. A simple recipe to structure our prayers is P.R.A.Y. – P.raise God; R.epent for Sin; A.sk for Others; and Ask for Y.ourself.
  • Service– In service, I intentionally serve other people, putting their needs above my own. I force myself to do things that are “below me” or menialto humble my pride and bless other people. I might take out the trash, clean the bathroom, or do the dishes.
  • Evangelism– Evangelism is the discipline of sharing God’s message with others. I train myself to do so by practicing telling my story and telling God’s story. I train myself to see opportunities to bring up Jesus in everyday conversations around my home, office, and play. Often these will come as I am honest about the ways Jesus has changed me.
  • Stewardship– In stewardship I budget my money as God’s money. I intentionally set aside God’s tithe and my offerings first. Then I set my savings and finally I delibertately prioritize my money to reflect God’s and my values and needs.
  • Fasting– Fasting is simply abstaining from food for a set period of time, during which I use my natural hunger pangs as an alarm clock for prayer. Everytime I get hungry, I remember I need Jesus more than I need food. I also replace my meals with times of Bible Study during which I feast on God’s word. I calculate the money I saved by skipping meals and give this away to the poor.
  • Silence– Silence is scheduled time without speaking or excess noise. These can be a few hours on a hike or a few days on a retreat. During periods of silence, I do not talk unless necessary, and I don’t turn on music or podcasts or use my electronics. This gives me room and time to hear God speak to me. I train myself to listen to others and to God. It trains me to value and measure every word I say.
  • Secrecy– Secrecy is the doing nice things without seeking others approval. I do so by doing acts of service or devotion that no one will ever know I’ve done. I can give in secret, study in secret, pray in secret or serve in secret because I am doing it for God and not for the approval of humans.
  • Sabbath– Sabbath is regular scheduled time of rest during which I refrain from my professional endeavors in order to be refreshed spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, and relationally. I am refreshed spiritually by extra time in Bible Study, prayer, and worship. I’m refreshed physically through sleep and relaxed schedule. I refresh emotionally by joy-giving recreation. I refresh relationally by either scheduling time away from people or with people depending on whether I am an extrovert or introvert.
  • Solitude– Solitude is not avoiding people, it is time spent with God. It is time scheduled to be alone with God, to give God my full attention. I can do this in a deerstand for a few hours or in a cabin for a few days. It is time, where I disconnect from others to plug into God. It is often helpful to disconnect from technology as well, though listening to worship music, sermons, or books can be powerful.
  • Journaling– There are a thousand ways to journal, but the two most common for Christians are to journal God’s Word in prayer or to write a letter to God. When journaling scripture, I write a verse and then start to write my associations with the words, imagines, and meaning of the verse. I journal questions about the verse to God and try to answer them witht the help of the Holy Spirit. I can journal “What does this verse teach me about God? About humans? What commands should I follow? What examples should I imitate? When writing a letter to God, I will parse my day, feelings, and thoughts before God. It can be helpful to follow the P.R.A.Y. recipe – P.raise; R.epent; A.sk for others; and ask for Y.ourself.
  • Learning– Learning allows me to make a plan to gather more information or training related to a particular area of my life. I might read a book or attend a conference or enroll in a class, but I set up a specific way I will learn more about Jesus, theology, history, or spiritual living.
  • Confession– Confession is telling God and another human being the exact nature of my faults. If I have wronged another person, I coness that to them and another in order to make amends.
  • Accountability– Accountability is a covenanted relationship among a small group of people to regularly confess sin and report on progress towards spiritual goals. This takes immense trust, because I cannot hide anything from these people.
  • Celebration– Celebratoin and feasting are times when I deliberately party to enjoy the Joy of the Lord. During times of Celebration, I eat good food, listen to good music, and do fun things to remind myself of the lavish generosity of God. I practice wonder and awe by attending to the beauty, flavor, and music of the world.
  • Affirmation– Affirmation is telling myself God’s promises and my God-given identity regularly to fight the lies I’m tempted to believe that I am worthless, stuck, and alone. I can write these messages on my bathroom mirror or Post-it notes, or I can memorize them and recite them daily.
  • Meditation
    1. Pondering/Chewing – In Western Spirituality (Judeo-Christian) mediation is pondering the Bible or a devotional slowly, savoring it like a meal. I roll it around in my mind like a gem in a rock tumbler. This is often less structured than Bible Study.
    2. Mindfulness – In Eastern Spirituality (Buddhist and Hindu) meditation is a self-emptying exercise or a mindfulness exercise used to train me to be aware of my emotions and thoughts in a nonjudgmental space. For Christians, I am never alone, and so mindfulness meditation is about cataloguing my emotions and thoughts before God, who does not judge me but empathizes with me. prayer, fasting, study,
  • Simplicity– Simplicity is intentionally living without things I can live without. It may mean eating less decadent meals, wearing less conspicuous clothing, driving a used car, or simply not buying the newest, baddest whatchamacallit. Historically Christians might cap their income at a comfortable living wage and give all money above that figure to the poor. Though an international spiritual superstar, John Wesley gave away all income above $30,000.
  • Submission– Submission is yielding to the leadership, direction, and judgment of another. The closest modern equivalent might be 12-Step Sponsors, who give advice and set schedules and even make decisions for someone in spiritual recovery. I yield to my mentor in all matters as a way of dying to my will and surrendering to God’s will.
  • Singing– Singing is a discipline. I train myself to worship God with my whole body whether I like it or am skillful. Singing trains me to do uncomfortable things for God’s glory and not the approval of others.
  • Guidance– Proverbs says that the “fool listens to his own counsel and thinks himself wise, but the wise submits to counsel and becomes wiser still.” Before big decisions, I consult more mature people who love God and love me.
  • Hospitality– Hospitality trains me to welcome others as if they were Jesus himself. I put their needs and comfort above my own. I can do this by hosting meals, housing travelers, or fostering children. I welcome them because they are loved by God and that is a big deal.
  • Gratitude– A gratitude list is a common means of inculcating a thankful heart. Everyday I write down 3 things for which I am thankful.