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Why spiritual disciplines?

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, ‘renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…’ (Colossians 3:10)”

-Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p. 151-2

Book recommendations from New Life’s pastoral team

December 28, 2009 3 comments

Reading is a rich form of discipleship. Reading a book means getting the author’s distilled best thoughts and ideas. But choosing good books–like choosing good mentors–can be challenging. To help you choose good books, I’ve compiled a list from our New Life pastoral team.

Here are some of the books we’ve read and recommend from this past year:

Personal/spiritual growth:

  • The Great Omission by Dallas Willard (insightful book on spiritual formation and discipleship)
  • The Flip Side by Flip Flippen (identifies personal constraints and how to establish a plan to overcome them. Great for personal growth)
  • Secrets to Spiritual Power by Watchman Nee (full of spiritual insights and practical pastoral concepts. best to read as a devotional supplement.)
  • A Contrarian’s Guide to Spirituality by Larry Osborne
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (such a valuable enjoyable read, powerful on story and life-vision, a book to hang ideas on, recommended by several pastors)
  • His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley  (A classic. Written in 1986 but updated a couple of times. Great practical insights into the differing needs of men and women as it relates to marriage.)
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (great book on discerning the will of God and making decisions, strong theology written with great humor and practicality)
  • The Coffeehouse Gospel by Matthew Turner (sharing faith in a relaxed, engaging way.)
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Mission/church history/theology:

Culture/history/science:

Church leadership:

  • Church Unique by Will Mancini (great for vision, strategy, and clarity of mission)
  • Beyond Megachurch Myths by Thumma & Travis  (describes common characteristics of churches that have over 2000 in attendance. Debunks some of the myths about these churches.)
  • Reclaiming our Prodigal Sons & Daughters by Larson & Bendtro (a moving book about the lives of urban youth)
  • Deep Church by James Belcher (book of the year on several lists, insight on being a life-giving, historically rooted church.  mediates the emerging/traditional church conversation well)
  • Heralds of God by James S. Stewart (timeless, spiritually rich book on preaching)
  • Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (useful for honing church follow up & small group systems. recommended by multiple pastors.)

Fiction:

Business/Leadership:

Planning to grow

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Everything that’s living is growing. And everything that’s growing is fed and watered. Healthy disciples take responsibility for their own spiritual growth by having a plan.  Now is a great time to make a spiritual plan for the new year. Here are some helpful links to get you moving:

Bible reading plans:

Guidance on making spiritual plans:

Help with memorizing Scripture:

Drive-by prayers for life-giving churches

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

I took my two oldest children to band practice this morning.  Though I don’t always use it well, I believe time in the car with my kids is Deuteronomy 6:7 time:  time to dialogue with and instruct my kids about following Jesus.  In doing this I try take a cue from something out the window or something going on in our lives.  Since we happened to be passing a life-giving church, I decided to use that church as my cue.

“Guys, that is a great church.  That pastor has been there for over 30 years and he’s been faithful to Jesus and to his wife and he’s raised his kids well.  The church has many leaders who love Jesus and they’ve seen many, many people come to Jesus over the years.  They are a very active part of our community and they really love the people who live in Logan Square.  That is a church is a church that is being faithful to Jesus.”

Then I prayed for the church, thanking God for their faithfulness and asking God to bless them with a new season of growth and refreshing.  After praying it was time for a little more instruction.

“Guys, it will always be easy to talk about other churches based on the few things they do wrong.  A lot of times people talk down about other churches to feel better about their own church [pastors in particular–but we’re slick about how we say it so that you’d hardly know we were talking down].  That is no way to be a family.  Always look for ways to bless and speak well of other churches.  Other churches are part of God’s family and God’s family speaks well of each other.”

Can I make the same appeal to you?

  • Let’s pray for other churches.
  • Let’s see them as Gospel allies who love our city and our savior like we do.
  • Let’s stop people from speaking unkindly of other churches when they’re in our presence.
  • Let’s operate like a healthy family in our speech and thoughts about our cousins who meet in other places under other leaders.
  • Let’s put a smile on the face of Jesus because we operate with real love for each other.

And for those of you asking the important question, “who’s in the family? How do I know if a church is life-giving?” let’s tackle those questions tomorrow…

When you fast.

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

And when you fast…

In Jesus’ mountainous sermon he utters this simple phrase to introduce some brief teaching on the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Speaking into an especially religious culture where fasting (abstaining from food for a set period of time) was regularly practiced among the spiritual “elite” he gives concrete direction about how to fast.

But what is easily missed is that short introductory phrase “and when you fast”.  By that simple phrase Jesus expresses fasting as a practice that his followers would engage in.

As a church we practice fasting both privately and together.  Beginning on January 3rd we’ll be fasting together for 21 days.

If you’d like to get your heart, mind and body ready for this fast, I’d encourage you to read a free pdf edition of John Piper’s book A Hunger For God. I’m reading it (off my Blackberry) and its stirring my heart to be ready for the fast.

Like clockwork

December 8, 2009 5 comments

The Redhead is leading her small group to practice bible memorization.  (Single men, find a woman who likes memorizing the Bible.  Trust me–its sexy.)  I wanted to share the method she’s using because I think its both innovative and useful.

Using the clock as a guide, they are memorizing Scriptures that relate to times of the day.  So when they pass certain moments of the day their mind is prompted to remember a portion of Scripture.  In a time-oriented culture, this method can help redeem your busyness by attaching Scripture to moments.  Brilliant!

Here are some examples to prime your thinking:

  • 1:08pm–Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”
  • 2:10pm–Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
  • 3:16pm–2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (you thought I was going all John 3:16 on you, right;-)

You get the idea.  Now post your ideas.  And more importantly, go memorize some Scripture.

A magic number for growth

December 7, 2009 4 comments

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Convinced that growth happens through close, long-term, Christ-centered relationships, we have added into our leadership environment micro-groups of 3 that meet weekly to encourage, pray for and challenge each other to stay white hot for the Gospel.  We call these micro-groups “prayer cords” or “triads”.  We operate them in our pastoral team and among our location leaders at New Life Lakeview & Lincoln Park.

When we meet in our triads/prayer cords, we spend some time sharing about our lives and we also ask each other questions like:

  • What are you doing right now that is keeping your heart near to God?
  • How are you doing in keeping your sexual desires only for your wife?
  • When was your last date?  When is your next date?
  • Are you keeping boundaries on your ministry work so that you have time given to your family?
  • Are you shutting off the blackberry and engaging with your kids?
  • What Scripture will you be spending time in next week?

And then we pray for each other.  Its a simple and powerful formula for growing together.

It was great this past week to have the men in my men’s fraternity group initiate this same kind of group with each other without being prompted by me.  Intuitively, they realize that 3 are stronger than one.  They want to grow together.

Here’s the thing: anyone with a little initiative, desire and courage to be possibly told “no thanks”, can form a micro-group like this.  In my experience one person tends to initiate but everyone benefits and everyone grows.

All a micro-group needs to start and be sustained is:

  • 3 willing and available members (men with men, women with women)
  • consistent time together (ideal: weekly)
  • honesty/transparency
  • safety/confidentiality
  • a growth/grace/Gospel focus

I’m a part of two of these micro-groups.  I guess I need growth help that much.  Are you a part of a micro-group like this?  What are your best practices?  Please share.