Covenant Christian Reformed Church Welcome to the weekly podcast of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan. For more information, check out our website at http://www.covenant-crc.org

February 24, 2020  

THE CALL TO COMMUNITY
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #12)

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

A. The Corinthian Church was a place of controlled chaos

1. Paul notes its membership: Jewish merchants, gypsies, Greeks,

prostitutes, and pagan idolaters

2. Paul notes their battles with schism, incest, greed, and the Lord’s Supper

B. Paul struggles with a basic question: “What is the Church?”

C. I wonder what metaphors Paul might use if he were writing today

1. The metaphor of the body has taken on additional depth and meaning:

our bodies are incredible; all systems work together as a unit

2. Alcoholics Anonymous involves compassionate listening, warm

responses, and hugs; participants are honest and transparent;

they are there for each other

3. At the Secretary of State’s Office, we’re forced to step outside our

small circle and realize there is a big world out there

4. Like a med-station, the Church should be open long hours, convenient

to find, willing to meet the needs of those who drop in because

life happens, and provide healing

THE FAMILY

A. If you begin reading in Genesis, you begin reading the history of families

1. History records the rise and fall of civilizations

2. The news reports the rise and fall of institutions

3. The Bible chronicles the rise and fall of families

B. Families work from a different paradigm

1. A family has the same Father - he gives the family its name and identity

2. Our “status” in God’s family: we are born (lit. adopted) into the family

a. An undeserving or underachieving child is not kicked out of the family

“There is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13)

b. Distinctions melt under the Son of God’s grace

3. Families are built on love and acceptance

“Families teach us how love exists in a realm beyond liking and disliking, co-existing with indifference, rivalry, and even antipathy.” (John Updike)

C. Imagine the Body of Christ as a family gathered around the dinner table

1. This extended family contains some successful individuals, some average

ones, and some who have failed to meet any of their potential

“Family is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Robert Frost)

2. God designed the nuclear family to prepare us to relate to others:

a. The family is the one institution we don’t get to choose

b. In the family, we’ll find people we like and who are unlikeable

“To dwell in love with saints above, Why, that will be glory. To dwell below with saints I know, well, that’s a different story.” (Anonymous)

“Community is a place where the person you least want to live with always lives.” (Henry Nouwen)

c. Families work best, not when they focus on differences, but celebrate them!

d. Families build up their weakest, smallest, and youngest members

“Which one of my children do I love the best, I love the sick one until he is well, the one away from home until she’s back.” (John Wesley’s mother)

3. To discern God’s will together, we need to listen together, live together,

love together, and listen together - so we can serve and glorify God together

CONCLUSION

A. Question: “Are we a community of Christ embracing those who come here?”

B. Question: “Are we a community of Christ embracing those who

live in this neighborhood?”

C. Question: “Are we Christ’s community? Is he living among us?”

February 17, 2020  

A Rule for Life
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #11)
Acts 2:40-42

“The real issue is not these forces, it’s the ‘meltdown’ of Christian behavior; North American Christians are virtually indistinguishable from the world” (Os Guinness)

A. The church is facing a spiritual crisis

1. We need to get serious about our spiritual life!

2. Imagine we’re building or remodeling our spiritual “home” – the only

question is “How serious are we about actually moving in...?”

B. Deepening our walk with Jesus requires more than intellectual assent

1. We need a conscious, intentional, well thought out action plan

2. We need the discipline to follow it

“Athletes, musicians, writers, scientists, and others progress in their fields because they are well-disciplined people. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to think that in matters of faith we should pray, meditate, and engage in other spiritual disciplines only when we feel like it.” (William Paulsell cf. Rules for Prayer)

A RULE-DRIVEN LIFE

A. How do we arrange our life for what our heart most deeply desires?

1. Answer: we need an intentional rhythm - a set of habits

2. This is known as a “Rule of Life” (from the Greek for “trellis”)

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

B. Acts 2:41f tells what happened after Pentecost

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)

“They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

C. In Acts 3 we see Peter and John going to the temple...

1. They were following Jesus’ rhythm

2. When new believers came to “church” they needed to be trained

“Your way of acting should be different than the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else!” (St. Benedict)

D. These regulations (from regula) were habits that regulated their life

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
A RULE OF LIFE

A. Everyone has a “spiritual strategy” – it’s either intentional or unintentional,

helpful or harmful

“It is very unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard manner. There will be a need for some intentional commitment and some reorganization in our own lives. But there is nothing that will enrich our life more than a deeper and clearer perception of God’s presence in the routine of daily living.” (William Paulsell)

B. Writing your “Rule of Life”

1. It begins in silence, listening to God

2. Then, it involves developing a written pattern

3. Then reflect (ruminate) on it:
a. Is it personal? – Does it reflect who you are?
b. Is it practical? – Is it attainable?
c. Is it balanced? – Is it both comfortable and stretching?
d. Is it flexible? – Is it adaptable to changing circumstances?
e. Is it simple? - Is it easy/short enough to remember?

“My yoke [lit. rule] is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

4. Then do it. Keeping the rhythm is most important!

C. If you love Jesus with all your heart, it is time to get off the log...

February 10, 2020  

A Rhythm of Rest
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #10)
Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15

“Shabbat is, without question, the part of Judaism I miss the most. Sabbath shaped all our rhythms of calendar and time: the entire week revolved around Shabbat.
(Lauren Winner; Mudhouse Sabbath)

A. For most people, Sunday is anything but a day of rest

B. God has given us the gift of Sabbath and Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, I will give your rest”
(Matthew 11:28)

THE PROLEGOMENA OF SABBATH

A. The Sabbath is deeply imbedded in Creation

“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2)

B. At Sinai, God placed Sabbath into Covenant

1. Exodus reads “Remember [zakhor] the Sabbath day and keep it holy [kadosh]”;

Deuteronomy reads “Observe [shamor, keep] the Sabbath day and keep it holy”

2. In Exodus (20:11) the basis for remembering Sabbath is Creation. In

Deuteronomy 5:15, we observe Sabbath to keep Covenant

3. Rabbis asked why Exodus says remember and Deuteronomy says observe

a. Answer: Sunday through Tuesday we remember the past Sabbath;

Wednesday through Friday we prepare to observe the coming Sabbath

b. Answer: all of life revolves around Sabbath

THE PURPOSE OF SABBATH

A. Sabbath is a way of ordering our lives around nurturing our soul

1. It is a way of keeping God in the center of our life (i.e., calendar)

2. It is a way of setting apart a time for worship

3. It is a way of balancing our life: work and rest

B. Sabbath is a way to honor the limits of our humanness

1. Sabbath reminds us we’re not in control or indispensible

When we cease interfering in the world we are acknowledging that it is God’s world.” (Lis Harris, Holy Days)

2. Sabbath reminds us we need rest, refreshment and replenishment

3. Sabbath reminds us to live within our limits
THE PRINCIPLES OF SABBATH

A. Stop! We stop on Sabbath because God is on the throne

1. We stop working. What constitutes work for us is what needs to stop!

2. We stop wanting - buying and selling, feeding our consumerism

3. We stop worrying. Worrying is emotionally and mentally exhausting

B. Rest! Once we stop, Sabbath calls us to rest like all our work is done

1. The invitation to rest is to focus on nurturing our soul

2. Whatever renews, refreshes, replenishes our soul, glorifies God and brings joy

C. Delight (cf. Isaiah 58:13-14) in God, in who he is and what he has done

1. God invites us to slow down, to be present to Him, to enjoy his creation

2. Don’t make Sabbath a weighty exercise; engage it with delight

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

D. Contemplation! We have the opportunity to practice his presence

1. We have the opportunity to worship and celebrate his holiness

2. We have the opportunity to taste our eternal Sabbath (cf. Rev. 22:4)

3. We give attention to intentionally restoring our soul

“Disentangle our mind from worldly cares and troubles... preparing our self for the coming Sunday with prayer...[and] retire to rest betimes so as to be punctual and sprightly at church the next morning.” (Friedrich Stark)

OUR PRACTICE OF SABBATH

A. Many have missed the (Sabbath) blessing

1. We seldom think about Jesus’ resurrection (or ours) – even on Sunday

2. We’ve lost the concept of rest; corporate worship has become optional

3. Churches increasingly plan “work” on Sunday for convenience

“The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27)

B. Keeping the Sabbath rhythm, focusing on God; nurturing our souls is important

“There is something in the (original) Sabbath that is missing from most Christian Sundays: a true cessation from the rhythms of work and world, a time wholly set apart, and, perhaps above all, a sense that the point of Shabbat, the orientation of Sabbath is toward God.” (Lauren Winner)

1. Think of Sabbath as a “snow day” once a week

2. Accept his invitation to stop, rest, delight, and contemplate every week

C. We need time to “be still and know that he is God.” God has given us the time.

February 3, 2020  

Listening For God
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #9)
John 8:42-47

A. Prayer is central, assumptive, and normative in the Christian Life

B. In discerning God’s will, prayer is absolutely essential

The Principles

“The best method of prayer is to have no method at all.” (St. Francis deSales)

A. Principle One: The best way to learn to pray is ... to pray

B. Principle Two: Prayer is primarily about our relationship with God

1. Prayer is not about getting stuff, problem solving or seeking guidance

2. Prayer is about experiencing more of God’s presence

C. Principle Three: We don’t really know much about prayer

1. We are consciously stepping into the presence of the God of the universe!

2. We tend to focus on the mechanics and methods of prayer

D. Principle Four: Prayer is hard work; it takes time

1. We wonder whether all the effort will be worth it

2. We join the disciples and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)

E. Principle Five: Prayer is a gift from God

F. Everything you need to know about prayer...you now know

The Presuppositions

A. Four parts of prayer: God speaks, we listen; we speak, God listens

B. God speaks

1. God brought the universe into existence by His spoken Word

2. In the Garden, Adam and Eve talked with God and God talked with them

3. Moses learned to hear God’s voice and obey his command

“You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)

4. God sent prophets to speak for him

5. Then Jesus came speaking

“I am the Good shepherd; my sheep know my voice” (John 10:4)

6. In Acts 1:1f; Luke indicates that after his ascension, Jesus continues “to do

and to teach” through His Spirit

7. Good news: God hasn’t stopped speaking. Bad news: most people have

stopped listening

“He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47)

“The sheep follow him because they know his voice…” (John 10:4)

“They too will listen to my voice…” (John 10:16)

C. We need to listen

1. Few people hear an outward recordable voice

2. Most often God speaks in a whisper deep in our heart

3. Listening is a crucial element in our relationship with Jesus

“Jesus Christ is alive and here to teach his people himself. His voice is not hard to hear; his vocabulary is not difficult to understand. But learning to listen well and to hear correctly is no small task.” (Richard Foster)

4. The Christian faith is hearing the voice of God and doing it

5. What are you listening for? When was the last time you heard God speak?

The Practice

A. Most often, God speaks in common promptings...

1. Then, we have a small window to respond

2. The goal is to carry a listening “ear” with us through our day

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persona are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees at the blessed sacrament.” (Brother Lawrence)

“God does not cease speaking, but the noise of the creatures without, and of our passion within, deafens us, and stops our hearing. We must silence every creature; we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul, the ineffable voice of the spouse. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else.” (Francois Fenelon)

B. Ask God to speak to you. Practice Listening! Keep practicing!

C. The voice of God is heard by those who no longer listen for anything else

February 3, 2020  

Pausing to Pray
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #8)
(Mark 1:35)

“We tend to think of prayer as something we do in order to produce the results we believe are needed or, rather, to get God to produce the results. Go to any Christian bookstore and note the number of books devoted to techniques of prayer. We are interested in knowing what works and developing skills that will ensure that our prayers are effective. As a result our prayers tend to be a shopping list of things to be accomplished, an attempt to manipulate the symptoms of our lives without really entering into a deep, vital, transforming relationship with God.” (Robert Mulholland)

A. Most believers have a genuine desire to pray...

B. That’s why most of us became a Christian - to spend eternity with God

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

A. Prayer is typically defined as talking to God, contemplative prayer is

best defined as being with God

“Our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God forever” (Westminster Catechism)

B. Why is contemplative prayer important?

1. First, we are expected to pray

2. Second, it’s about the relationship; it’s about just being together

THE FOUNDATION

A. In the very heart of God is a deep desire to be in fellowship with us...

1. God longs to hear from us; God longs to speak to us; God longs to be with us

2. In the heart of a believer is the deep desire to fellowship with God

B. God Speaks

“You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)

1. Jesus’ constantly withdrew to spend time with His Father (Mark 1:35)

2. Good news: God hasn’t stopped speaking

C. We need to listen

1. Listening takes time; God is never in a hurry

“Because I am a Christian” (Dietrich Bonheoffer)

2. Consciously being in God’s presence will transform us into better disciples

STAYING FOCUSED

A. We are not trained to just “be” with God
B. So what should we do?

1. Don’t be too hard on yourselves

“The first thing to remember is not to get impatient with yourself. Do not cramp yourself in despair at the wandering of your thoughts. Just sit down each day and wait patently. If your thoughts keep running away, do not attempt to restrict them. It is no bother to let them run on to their destination; then, however, take up the place or the person to whom they have strayed into your prayers. In this way you will find yourself back at the text, and the minutes of such digressions will not be wasted and will not trouble you.” (Dietrich Bonheoffer)

2. Try to identify the source of the distractions

3. Prepare for your prayer time by first slowing down

4. Use your imagination

5. Keep paper/pencil nearby; Journal

C. How does one distinguish God’s voice from other voices?

“Certain factors distinguish the voice of God just as any human voice can be distinguished from another.” (Dallas Willard)

1. First, the quality of God’s voice

“The quality of God’s voice is more a matter of weight or impact an impression makes on our circumstances. A certain steady and calm force on which communications from God impacts our soul, our innermost being, incline us toward assent and even toward compliance.” (Dallas Willard)

“The inner voice of God does not argue or try to convince you. It just speaks and it is self-authenticating.” (E. Stanley Jones)

2. Second, the spirit of God’s voice

“God’s voice is a spirit of peacefulness and confidence, or joy, of sweet reasonableness and of Good will. It is, in short, the spirit of Jesus” (Dallas Willard)

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality.” (James 3:17)

3. Third, the content of God’s voice

“A word that is truly from God will always conform to and be consistent with the truths about God’s nature and kingdom that are made clear in the Bible.” (Dallas Willard)

D. A word of challenge and encouragement:

1. Make time. God desires it. You require it

2. Slow Down. Don’t run into his presence. Don’t hurry out of his presence

3. Slip consciously onto God’s lap every day

4. God loves it too!

November 18, 2019  

Being One
(Discovering God’s Will Together; #3)
John 17:1l, 20b-21

A. The bond of unity in the body of Christ is easily broken

1. Jesus defines community, chooses community, and sustains community

2. We don’t define community; but we often hinder and tarnish it

B. With disunity, Satan gains a small victory and God gets angry

“Biblical Community” is not relating directly other Christians, it is relating to others though the person of Jesus Christ.” (cf. Life Together, Dietrich Bonheoffer)

THE PRAYER

A. In John 17 Jesus prays that we will be one like He and His Father are one

B. This prayer tells us what’s on Jesus’ heart

1. Jesus prays for the unity of His disciples and for all future disciples

a. This is not a prayer for unanimity

b. This is a prayer for unity – a unity based on love and mutual submission

2. Jesus knows the building (growth) of His Church depends on unity

THE PRIORITY

A. The New Testament church was devoted to unity (cf. Acts 2:46f)

B. Jesus is very passionate about the unity of His Church

1. Unity is Christ’s vision for his Church and Kingdom

2. Oneness is a mark of God’s character

3. God is jealous for the unity of His Church because His Son died for it

“He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… (Ephesians 2:14)

“I appeal to you…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you may agree with one another in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

“Finally brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

C. Are you devoted to oneness in the body of Christ?

1. Unity requires intentionality, hard work and discipline

2. Is there unresolved conflict between you and someone else in the church?

3. Biblical unity requires supernatural intervention to produce a

supernatural reality that requires a supernatural explanation

THE PRACTICE

A. In Luke 24, two disciples walking home to Emmaus; a third person joins

1. They share community. They experience “communion”

2. Community is a place where we find grace, love, hope and encouragement

B. Our world desperately needs a Christ-centered Community where...

1. ...we can walk together listening to and learning from Jesus as his Spirit
opens the Word

2. ...we can be human - admitting our struggles and failures, disclosing our
deepest desires, confessing our doubts

3. ...we are as eager to share it’s sorrows as its joys, its pain’s as its victories, it’s

questions as its answers - a community marked by grace, forgiveness,

and love

4. ...the stranger is embraced and enveloped

5. ...believers lift each other up in their daily prayers

6. ...Jesus is confessed as Savior and proclaimed as Lord in all things

7. ...we celebrate when “our hearts burn,” “our eyes are opened” and we’ve

seen Jesus

C. When the body of Christ lives in unity, we experience community, His

Church is graced, the Kingdom grows, and God is glorified

November 11, 2019  
November 11, 2019  

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