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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Going Old School

My favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning. Ok, maybe its about 15 minutes later once I get some coffee. There was a time when I had to make myself, or try to make myself spend time in Bible reading and prayer. It is God's mercy to me that this is rarely a struggle any more (I have plenty of other struggles). In my late 20’s, I learned an approach to prayer and Bible reading that transformed my life. I wrote about that here. As the years went on and computers became faster and portable and Bible study software proliferated, I graduated to praying using a computer to aid this time alone with God. It took me a long time, many, many years to recognize that much of the time that is a bad idea for me. There was a sense in which using my computer to help me spend time with God felt more efficient, but I see now that efficiency and relationship are not words that fit together well.

I’ve been going old school now for several weeks. It started when I read one of those articles about how taking notes by hand is a more effective way of learning when listening in class. When a person who types well uses a computer to take notes, it tempts him or her to write what they hear word for word. But when he or she writes by hand, it forces them to synthesize on the spot because it is impossible to write down everything. That distinction in processing increases learning. Somehow reading that article provoked me to ditch my computer for morning prayer.

So now for a few months, I get up and I read a little from a book; right now Tim Keller’s book Prayer. Then I do my McChayne Bible reading plan from my ESV Reader’s Bible, often out loud and slow. I also have a pen and a notebook close by. From this slow marinating of my heart and mind in the word of God, I am provoked to pray and speak back to the God who has just been speaking to me through his word.

I want to say over the top words here along the lines of what you would read in Psalm 119, that this time alone with God is often a rich feast. That is true. But I must also tell you that sometimes my heart is cold and my mind is distracted. But by God’s grace I stay at it. Such times have little to do with being quiet, unless quiet means the sense in my heart that comes from not having my digital devices creating an undertow of stress I didn’t detect until it wasn’t there. The devices are still close by, but their bells and whistles are turned off and they don’t interrupt me.

(Here’s an article about the dangers relative to having a smart phone close by in the mornings. Ironically, I read this while still in bed. But then I got up.)

Making a Difference in Our Community Sermon Outline

Making a Difference in Our Community
James 1:19-27

What can provoke us toward sustained compassionate ministry to our community?

1.    Submit to the word of God

James 1:19–21 (ESV)
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

2.    Persevere in scripture to provoke obedience

James 1:22–25 (ESV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

3.    Follow through with compassionate action

James 1:26–27 (ESV)
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Questions for further reflection and discussion:
·      List ministries of our church aimed at people in our community who do not attend BP?
·      How is the challenge regarding listening, speaking, and anger relevant to caring for the community around us?
·      What does it mean to receive with meekness the implanted word? Do you see the word “meekness” as a strong word or a weak word? Why?
·      What is the difference in these two statements: “Do what the word says” and “be a doer of the word?” Why might this difference matter?
·      What practical steps are involved in “looking into the perfect law and persevering in that?
·      Orphans and widows were the most helpless members of society in the time of James’ writing. Is the same still true now, or would you identify other groups of people as most in need now?
·      How can we learn to think as missionaries to our community?
·      How can we be innovative in serving non-Christians outside of our church?

·      What needs in our community is God is God calling us to meet?