Just got home from church and have several things floating around in my brain. Thought I would process them out loud with you here.
Wonderful sermon by Pastor Neil this morning...really got me thinking. If you read my blog, you probably read Neil's as well...if you don't, go check it out here. Anyway, the sermon series right now is about worship and Neil was talking this morning about developing a life of worship. He is a runner and used the analogy of training for a 10 mile run to remind us that we don't develop a lifestyle of worship by just trying really hard...we have to train over a period of time. He talked about what is involved in the Basic Training of establishing a lifestyle of worship...something I certainly aspire to do, like many of you. Here are the 4 things he mentioned:
- Begin and end each day with prayer
- Read the bible every day
- Pray for other people and the situations in your world
- Spend time with other believers
He spent some time elaborating on each of these points. For instance, he suggested that we begin each day by reaffirming our decision to offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice" to God...a 30 second prayer of dedication and surrender. The end of the day prayer was intended to give us the opportunity to look back over our day and confess the areas where we missed the mark, thank God for the places we saw Him at work, and ask for guidance for the next day. He suggested even 5 minutes every day spent reading God's Word would be a great place to begin our training. He went on to remind us of the importance of praying for others and developing relationships with fellow believers who could encourage us in our journey.
So, what's the big deal? Certainly not stuff we haven't heard plenty of times before, right? I guess that is the point. I think sometimes we make it so much more complicated than it needs to be. Especially if you have been hanging around "spiritual" people very long. We use big stain-glassed words and complicated disciplines, perhaps to make ourselves feel more spiritual. As Neil said when we talked about it after the service, if we make it more complicated, it gives us an excuse to just not do it. If I feel that I need to spend hours every day in prayer and intensive bible study, it is easy to make the case that I don't have the time. So, I do nothing and lament that I don't have the relationship with God that I desire....that I don't have a consistent prayer life...that I don't know God's will for my life.
In the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, you often hear the acronym K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. Perhaps that is what Jesus was talking about when He told us to have "child-like" faith. I know, for myself, that I often get frustrated by my inability to maintain the disciplines that I know draw me closer to God. Perhaps, when I am noticing that struggle, it would be a good time to get back to basics....the Basic Training that Neil talked about today. Instead of reading Christian self-help books or picking up an additional bible study, maybe checking out where I am on the 4 things listed above would be more helpful. Some of them are consistently part of my days, some I do more sporadically. Back to Basics...just like with exercise.
The second part of my time at church this morning was spent attending the adult Sunday School class that our senior pastor, Rob, has been leading. It has been a 4 week process where we have explored some of the denominational issues with which the PCUSA has been struggling. Today's class was the opportunity for he and some of our elders to share with us where God has led them in terms of the response from our church. As they shared, they recounted the process by which they felt the Holy Spirit lead them in the opposite direction from where they had been headed initially. I have been following this process all along, had been praying about this all along, and was relieved to hear that God had indeed led them in the direction I hoped they would go....namely, to not leave the denomination.
At the end of our time together, they invited questions and comments. I raised my hand during the end of that time and offered praises to God for His leading and affirmed the members of Session for their obedience in seeking and listening for God's will and for the time and energy that they had each spent in this process. Several people came up to me afterwards to thank me for offering those words of encouragement.
However, on the way home, God lovingly convicted me. Essentially, in my spirit, He said to me "Would you have been so willing to offer Me praise if I had led them in the opposite direction? Would you have trusted that it was My will, if they had come to a conclusion that was different than your will?"
I wonder how often I reserve my praise for God to the times when His will agrees with my will? When it sounds good to me...a logical direction based on my personal desires? What about the times when His will seems to be diametrically opposed to what I think that I want? To what I think is best or right? Can I trust Him in those times as well? Perhaps more importantly, do I praise Him in those times?
Hmmm...all kinds of good food for thought! I'm glad I showed up for church this morning!