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 24, 2020  
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!

September 24, 2018  

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