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Spiritual growth through Christian Discipleship. Being a disciple of Jesus is easier if we do it together.
4 days ago
The Law of Love – Loving Others
This week is the second part of The Law of love. This week we’re going to be talking about loving others and with what’s going on around the country and the emotions we’re starting to deal with, loving others is one of the farthest things from some people's minds. So let’s see how we as Christians are supposed to respond to those around us. ' Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ' Here’s the deal. The world wants us separated. I say the world but what I mean is Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, whatever you want to call him. I use the term “The World” because the world is what Jesus says we don’t belong to (John 15:19) and if we focus on it we lose sight of Him (Matthew 13:22). The world, through the media, politicians, and other leaders separates us. First by race, and it chops us up into little pieces; Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native Ameican, European American, African American. Then it separates us by income; high, middle, and low. Next comes region; north, south, northeast, midwest, California, Florida. Then by sexual orientation Gay, Straight, LGBTQ, Lesbian, Asexual. Then by religion; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, Fundamentalist, Social Gospel. Finally by political party Republican or Democrat but mainly conservative or liberal, because everyone has to be one or the other in order to separate us. Every time we are separated from the people around us, we lose a little bit of ourselves. Because of the walls we put up between us and the people we live near, most Christians are more willing to go serve in another country than they are to serve the people in their neighborhood. Separation creates fear, and where there is fear, there is no love. Paul says in Philippians 4, 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ' How are we doing with that Peace that passes all understanding? If we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we can’t live in fear. One of the old cliches is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. The only way to get over our fear is to let God in to change us, and for us to move out into the world around us. Where do we start? Prayer The first place is to start by letting God love us so we can love ourselves, then love others. I talked about this last week so if you haven’t heard that episode you may want to listen to it too. Anything that does not begin with prayer is probably not going to bear much fruit. We have to be willing to let God lead us and change us in order to get to an attitude of love. Each of the four groups I give below should be prayed over regularly in order to let God work. We can’t make ourselves do anything. The harder we try to be something the farther away from it we get. We can’t just will ourselves to love, we have to let God love through us. Love Other Christians 1st John 4 directly addresses this, 'Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. ' As Christians, we are supposed to love other Christians. By doing this it shows God’s love and helps His love to be perfected in us. This isn’t talking about anyone outside the church. This is talking only about Christians.
Jun 24, 2020
The Law of Love – Love Yourself
Learning to love yourself can be hard, but we can love ourselves because God loved us first. I need this just as much as anyone else and I hope you find it helpful. So what is the Law of Love? You probably know it better as the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 but originally found in the Book of Deuteronomy ' Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ' I use this verse a lot because, as I said in the beginning, I am trying to learn this myself. But, I want to take a different view at first because I think one of the most important parts is the, “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF.” I bet I’ve heard 20 sermons on this verse and only one I can remember on loving ourselves. That is mainly because most Christians don’t believe it. They come up with some self-deprecating quasi humble, “I’m not worthy” and that’s not what the bible says. Yes, we are supposed to have a proper sense of self but, the implication is obvious, if we don’t love ourselves we can’t love our neighbor. As Christians, we want to talk about ourselves like we’re dirt or worms or worm-dirt or worse but that is not how God sees us. And while we are sinners, God made us and he made us a little lower than Himself (Psalm 8:5) ' You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor. ' (CEV) It's Okay To Love Yourself God didn’t create you not to love yourself. We get those feelings of inadequacy from years of telling ourselves we’re bad (Which is what I did) or other people telling us we’re bad. When you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church you get a new name. Just like Saul who became Paul after his conversion. I took the name of St. Moses the Black because he was the badest dude I could find. But deep down, I also knew that if God could heal a thief and scoundrel like Abba Moses, he could heal me. This was born of my low self-esteem. The Book That Helped Me See In his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, (Affiliate Link) David Seamands gives four things that low self-esteem can cause. Low self-esteem paralyzes your potential - He says God grieves over this and very few people overcome this haunting self-doubt. It seems to settle in like a great fog. He references the story of the talents in Matthew 25 and how the servant with one talent was paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy so bad he couldn’t decide what to do, so he just buried it. Low self-esteem destroys your dreams - In the prophecy of Joel 2:28 he says, ' Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams.' Seamands says the Holy Spirit helps dream the dreams God has for us but our feeling of unworthiness snatch them away. Low self-esteem ruins your relationships - Think about your relationship with God. Seamands says that if you feel inferior you will think God must not love or care for you. After all, He made you so he must have made you this way. This will also lead to our relationships with others. If we don’t like ourselves then we can’t like others. He says this, “If you have low self-esteem, you ask another human being to do for you what no other person can do--to make you feel adequate and able--when you are already convinced that you are inadequate and unable.” If you don't learn to love yourself, you won't let anyone else love you. Low self-esteem sabotages your Christian Service - What’s the first thing people say when you ask them to serve in the church, “I can’t….insert excuse here” If you’ve ever worked in church ministry you know this is true. Seamands says that our low self-esteem robs God of a “Mar...
Jun 17, 2020
Where Is God When I Pray
Last week we talked about Making time for God and how we could set aside more time throughout our day to pray and open ourselves to God. But what happens when God APPEARS to not show up? When I was doing the Introduction for the podcast I talked about knowing what it’s like to feel like you’re praying in a vault and asking, "Where is God". When you not only fell shut off from God but you’re shut off from the world. I can say this was the absolute lowest point in my life because I wasn’t praying. I knew God wasn’t listening and I stayed there for a couple of years. This week we are back in the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link), by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. In the first chapter, he helps us see why sometimes it appears as though God is not present. Prayer Is A Relationship The first thing Metropolitan Anthony reminds us is that prayer first and foremost is a relationship that is deep and can’t be forced. Either on us or on God. If you have met someone you like and want to establish a relationship with them you make plans to get together, to get to know each other better. The same is true with God. If we really want a relationship, we will spend time with Him. And, like a relationship with a friend, there will be times we show up both physically and mentally and times we don’t. We may be there physically, but mentally we are just going through the motions. If we have to work at connecting to people we can see, how much harder do we think it will be connecting to a God who lives in us, but we can’t see. But, just like building a friendship, we don’t give up at the first sign of struggle. We don’t just expect it to happen, we make time to cultivate and grow the relationship. However, if we don’t “feel” like we connect with God on a regular basis we may give up on Him in a heartbeat. Let’s face it, if we are really honest about our relationship with God, He has a lot more to complain about us than we can complain about Him. Prayer Is A Moment of Judgement Metropolitan Anthony says that meeting with God is always a moment of Judgement for us. Not in an eternal sense but a personal sense. Think about the Israelites when God wanted to show Himself to them, 'When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” ' God knows everything about us and there may be times when we don’t want Him to show up because of unaddressed sin in our lives that we think we can hide from Him. We can’t fool God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to give us a chance to search ourselves and repent before He shows himself fully to us. As an Orthodox Christian, I attend confession with my priest, on a semi-regular basis. I also have two accountability partners who I can trust and can be open and honest with. Unlike most people believe, confession isn’t about punishment, it’s about drawing us back to God. The priest doesn’t forgive us, God does, but God knows that when we share our burdens they become lighter. In the book of James, we read, 'The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ' I know a lot of people both in and out of Orthodoxy who say they don’t need to confess to anyone else, they can confess to God and he forgives them. That is absolutely true. The thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that I can lie to myself. I can always justify my behavior. But, when I am talking to someone else about my behavior they can help me carry it just a little. If we are truly honest with another person it cleanses us and ...
Jun 10, 2020
Making Time For God
We can all make time for God if we waste a little less. Steve uses the book Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom for hints at ways to make time for God. Transcript This week we’re going to talk about making time for God and this is inspired by the fourth chapter of the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link) by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. When I was a kid television stations actually went off the air at midnight or one am. Even some of the 12 cable channels we had; went off the air for a few hours each night. But, today I think every station has something on 24 hours a day. We live in a world that never stops. I think that’s why Time management is a big deal today. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on time management From apps on our phones to the standard paper planner, (I use the bullet journal method) to classes costing thousands of dollars. Time management is a big business. The reality is that we can not make time. We only have what we have and once it is gone we can’t get it back. Instead of managing our time what Metropolitan Anthony asks us to do is waste a little less. He says if we waste a little less, we will always have more and we can use those once wasted pieces to draw closer to God. He also says, there is no way to grow our inner life in a hurry. Our relationship with God only comes from slowing down and making use of the time we are given. We can’t hurry enough to make more time. This is about taking time out of our busy schedule to be present with God. Ephesians 5:15-17 says Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Making the most of my time is where I like to make excuses. I don’t have time, I’m to busy, I’ll do it later. But I watch my wife, who is actually busy and realize I’m just making excuses. She works and takes college classes but makes time every morning for prayer, bible study, and journaling. She helps me see that if I really want a relationship with God, I can make the time. Think of spending time with God as our food or air. We wouldn’t refuse food or air if it were offered to us after a long absence so neither should we refuse to spend time with God if we honestly want to seek Him. Just like food and air, once we have spent time with God, we won’t want to do without it again. What can we do to Make Time for God? Have a Prayer Rule One of the best ways is the use of a prayer rule. A prayer rule helps us focus and stay on track with our prayers every day. It gives us a guided way to approach God instead of just showing up and trying to figure out what were going to do. It frees us to give in and just be present. I’ll do a whole episode on developing a prayer rule later but a short prayer rule would include when, where, how long, and what to pray for. In Orthodoxy, we have a set of daily prayers we should start with but the list is absolutely endless with prayer options. Practice Short Prayers Another way we can spend more time with God is by carving out short blocks of time during the day. Metropolitan Anthony says we can start with any amount of time we can get and just begin to sit quietly in God’s presence letting go of the “Cares of the world” and just being present with God. Since our minds are so cluttered with work, family, and life in general being silent for five minutes may seem like an hour. So being quiet for a couple of minutes at first is a great accomplishment. If sitting quietly isn’t your thing then try saying the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. As you breathe in, say, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and as you breathe out say, “Have mercy on me a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer has been practiced for centuries by everyone from monks to generals and everyone in between.
Jun 3, 2020
Introduction to Spiritual Teamwork
This episode is an introduction to Spiritual Teamwork and the host Steve Crenshaw. Introduction Transcripts You can go to About Steve or About Spiritual Teamwork to read the transcript of the podcast. If you would like to learn about my Christian Journey, you can see a talk I did at St John The Divine Greek Orthodox Church on YouTube, Heroes of the Faith--Abba Moses the Ethiopian
Jun 1, 2020
Trailer For Spiritual Teamwork
Short introduction trailer for Spiritual Teamwork
May 14, 2020
Spiritual Teamwork Promo 1
This is the first promo spot for the Spiritual Teamwork podcast Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward.Soren Kierkegaard First Episode Releases June 3rd