Spiritual Practice #8: “Intentionally Seek to Integrate Your Life in Christ with All Areas of Your Life”

Posted November 30, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Holy Spirit, In the World, Ordinary Living

integratedDuring Advent we reflect upon and prepare for the coming of Jesus. We remember his birth and make sure our preparations are on track for his return.

So why did he come? And what can we expect the second time around?

The Jesus whose birth we celebrate, and whose return we anticipate, is Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Messiah. Messiah is a Jewish word that basically means Savior/King. In other words, Jesus means to save and he means to rule. His intent then and now is to reclaim this world as God’s kingdom. He wants to restore all things according to God’s original design (Acts 3:19-22). He intends to make all things new.

Christ is King and he is Lord. This is the fundamental truth of the Christian life. Christ himself qualified us to enter his kingdom, but now each Jesus Follower is called to apply themselves to learning what it means to live under the Reign of God. Read the rest of this post »

Spiritual Practice #7: Move Towards Greater Financial Integrity and Generosity

Posted November 23, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Idolatry, Money, Obedience, Stewardship

blessedLet’s talk about money. We all know that money is necessary – for all sorts of things. I think we also know that money can be dangerous. It can put our spiritual lives, our relationships, and our emotional, mental and physical lives at risk. The apostle Paul isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know when he says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

But money can also be a very good thing. It can serve good and even holy purposes. Generous giving is even mentioned as one of the spiritual gifts (Romans 12:8). So while money can become a curse, it can also be an incredible blessing. Read the rest of this post »

Spiritual Practices 5 and 6: Having Spiritual Conversations with Believers and Those Not There Yet

Posted November 16, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Community, Evangelism, Gospel, Uncategorized

spiritual-conversationI apologize for not getting out a post last week about our fifth spiritual practice: “Engage in Honest, Authentic Conversations with Other Believers.” Let me say something about the spiritual practices in general. The only way any of these spiritual practices can really work is if we want to do them.

For example, most days I spend a few minutes practicing scales on my guitar. (Don’t worry, that’s not one of the nine practices.) It’s something I enjoy doing because I love the sound of a guitar and because I’d like to improve my playing. What doesn’t work is comparing my guitar skills with Tim Sawicki’s, for example. Then my inevitably small signs of progress can seem like a waste of time.

Likewise, it would be completely off the mark for any of us to compare our spiritual lives with the spiritual lives of other people. Jesus is our teacher, and each of us is his very personal disciple or student. We’re all wired differently — by his design. It’s also not going to work to treat these spiritual practices as obligations or requirements. Like I said earlier, at some level, we have to want them, or at least want the life they point to. Read the rest of this post »

Spiritual Practice 4: Identify and Use Your Spiritual Gifts

Posted November 2, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Body of Christ, Church, Community, Spiritual Gifts

bodyOn Sunday, which happened to be Reformation Sunday, we talked about faith – faith as gift, as trust, as faithfulness, as risk, as obedience, as perseverance, and finally, as freedom. This week’s spiritual practice zeros in on one of the most important and specific ways we exercise faith. The apostle Paul writes:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

So it seems that there are particular ways God assigns each of us to exercise our faith. And those ways and ministries aren’t the same for everyone.

But here’s the deal. We’re going to be hesitant to invest time and energy to explore and use our gifts in the body if we don’t have much faith in the body. There are so many things we can do with our talents and gifts and lives, and if we don’t believe that the church, the local church, is that big a deal, we’re going to understandably be cautious about directing very much of our time and talent there. Our motives for not engaging may be selfish – i.e. there are the things I want to do with my life – or they can be unselfish – i.e. I believe there are better, more efficient, more effective ways for me to make a difference in the world. Read the rest of this post »

Covenant Renewal: Spiritual Practice 3 – Develop a Personal, Conversational Relationship with God

Posted October 26, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Guidance, Prayer, Presence, Spiritual Disciplines

christdoorAs we continue our journey toward Covenant Renewal Sunday, this week’s spiritual practice is “Develop a Personal, Conversational Relationship with God.” Some people might read this and think, “Ah…Christianity Light.” It’s true that some people talk about a personal relationship with Christ in a way that privatizes their faith and avoids the costly discipleship of engaging with a broken world. Yet, it is a personal, conversational relationship with God that provides the necessary direction, transformation and power for doing ministry and mission. We take Jesus at his word when he said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Read the rest of this post »

What’s Worship?

Posted October 20, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Church, Worship

dancersIn my last post I talked about how worshiping together – physically and weekly – builds up the body of Christ. But there is a problem with making that the focus — we may miss the actual point of worship. Stopping where we left off yesterday, we might get the impression that worship is more about us than it is about God.

Apart from whatever it does for us individually or as a body, God simply deserves our worship. In fact, God is the only One who deserves out worship. And worship is happening, all the time it’s happening. Take in this scene from Revelation 4:8-11:

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

So why do we gather for worship on Sunday mornings? First and foremost because God deserves it. This is our opportunity to corporately and publicly acknowledge his worth and to praise him for it. His “worth” includes both who he is and what he’s done. It’s a blessing to us to savor this knowledge and to love him for it. Yes, God wants our knowledge of him to bring us joy and to make us feel secure going into the future. But this can only happen if we focus on him rather than our feelings during worship. Feelings fluctuate. God’s character and promises don’t. Read the rest of this post »

Covenant Renewal: Spiritual Practice 2 – Gather with God’s People Weekly for Worship

Posted October 19, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Church, Worship

churchsunriseThis week’s spiritual practice for building up the body is “Gather with God’s People Weekly for Worship.” Let’s take that statement apart.

First, we gather. One meaning of the Greek word for “church” is “gathering.” In other words, coming together and being together is fundamental to what it means to be church. Ultimately, this understanding of church grows out of how we understand God, especially God as Trinity: three Persons so “together” that they’re one God. It’s this actual, practical, physical togetherness on Sunday mornings that helps us hold on to our sense of being one body when we go our separate ways. Jesus got physical when he took on human flesh. He gathered around himself men and women who physically lived with him.

Then he sent them out.

We gather with God’s people. Our’s isn’t a random gathering. In other words, we don’t just gather with whoever happens to be at worship on a Sunday morning. This is our family. These are our people. More importantly, this is God’s People, and we are Christ’s body. Read the rest of this post »