Archive for the ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ Tag

The Method: Missionaries

Acts 13 Missionaries Sent By God

Audio – Part A: 23 min”

Audio – Part B: 21 min”

Audio – Full message:”

Bible Verses:  Acts 13:1-3, Acts 14:8-28


God sent out some of the first missionaries through His Church. These missionaries were committed to following Jesus wherever He led them, even if that meant facing opposition to and suffering for the gospel message they proclaimed. God used these missionaries not only to bring others into His family but also to strengthen and encourage the church itself as they saw God at work.

Theological Theme:

God’s kingdom expands through mission to the unreached.

Christ Connection:

Jesus told His disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. This image helps us see God’s people as “on offense,” taking the powerful and good news of Jesus to places of deep spiritual darkness with full confidence that Jesus will build His church.

Missional Application:

God-Father-Son-and-Spirit calls His Church to send and support missionaries to those who have never heard the gospel.

Photo Compliments YouTube

After Worship, The Holy Spirit Sent Them Off!

Acts 13 Sent out by the Holy Spirit

Part 1: 25min”

Part 2: 25min”

Full Message: 50min”

As the Father sent Jesus that he might Worship God and Witness to Him as real man, so Jesus the God/Man sends us the Holy Spirit that believers might participate in the Life and Love of Jesus, worshiping God – Father, Son and Spirit and witnessing about Him to people in all the world – in word and deed!

*picture courtesy of

The Value of Stillness

Exif_JPEG_PICTURESpiritual disciplines are often the topic of many books or articles.  These disciplines can encompass the familiar, such as prayer, Bible study, or giving, while others occasionally  foray into new territories, like simplicity, social justice, or meditation.

The practice of meditation for Christians is one that is sometimes hotly debated.  Some say the idea of being still and quieting the mind is “New Age,” or a way for Satan to control a person’s mind.  Others have compared the practice to allowing a shaken glass of dirty water to settle and become clear.  For me, the practice of meditation is a way of becoming more aware of thoughts that come from the “old man” or the false self and more attuned to the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit.

The idea of controlling the mind, with its random thoughts often focused on the future or the past, is not new.  In fact, believers are encouraged to pay attention to what they are thinking about and to strive to make those thoughts positive:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phillipians 4:8, NIV)

By paying attention to those thoughts rolling around in our heads, we soon can recognize untruths (“I can’t do anything right” or “I’m such a loser”) that conflict with who we know we are in Jesus Christ. More importantly, we can recognize that the evil one often takes advantage of our unmanaged thoughts to promote the untrue beliefs of unworthiness and separation between us and God. Taking a few minutes each day to sit in stillness creates the spiritual “muscles” we need to deal with such negative thinking.

In addition, observing our thoughts while interacting with others can also reveal old patterns that are sometimes based on fear and the need to control.  By creating mental space through stillness, we are better able to see why we respond as we do in some situations.  We can unpack the emotions that generate our response and see how to react more lovingly.

This self-analysis is closely tied to our ability to “hear” the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  When we better understand why we think the way we do and cultivate the ability to choose differently than our typical emotional knee-jerk response, we make room for the Holy Spirit to have more influence in our thoughts and actions. We can see more clearly how the “old man,” the false self or ego, is responsible for much of our suffering and stress, and we are more receptive and aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  Our participation in the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit takes on new vibrancy.

It is important to see that our meditation can take different forms.  Some may prefer sitting quietly, while others need repetitive movement, such as walking, to still the mind.  Focusing on our breath or what’s happening in the present moment can help, too.  Some helpful practices come from Eastern religious philosophies, but unfortunately, Christians discount them, thinking that they could not apply to a believer’s meditation practice.  However, the ideas of “breath prayers” or repeating a word or phrase (a mantra) have proven useful to Christians and non-Christians alike. These are simply tools that enable us to still the murky waters of our minds and allow the clarity of the Holy Spirit to rise to the forefront.

Meditation is not a New Age practice or Eastern religious philosophy to be feared.  It is an opportunity to grapple with the false self and allow the new self in Christ to grow in a believer’s mind.  Through calmness and stillness, we make ourselves more available to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, participating more fully in the work of God on earth.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of



Renewing My Brain Cells

I have spent much of my lifetime drowning in an ocean of toxic core beliefs.

Nowadays, I’m investing a lot of effort into swimming toward the beach.  I am working to change my core beliefs.  This has been difficult, because my most toxic beliefs are so deeply embedded in my psyche, they are sub-conscious and seemingly immovable.

A little brain science: Each time a connection between neurons fires, that connection gets thicker.

Although thoughts/beliefs are complex and involve many factors, one of the biggest factors is repetition.  The strength of a belief is partly determined by how often that belief/thought is repeated in the mind.

Physiologically speaking, my toxic beliefs are among the first neural connections ever made in my brain, and those connections have been firing (and therefore strengthening) several times a day for decades.  They are the physically thickest connections in my brain.  My new, healthy beliefs (which come from my new, healthy theology) are composed of neural connections that are unthinkably thin and fragile.

Through my union with the incarnate Christ, I have been given a share in the Holy Spirit’s multi-layered task of transforming me by renewing my mind.

At the cellular level, this means wearing down and eventually breaking the thick neural connections (the toxic core beliefs), and thickening and strengthening the new connections (the healthy core beliefs).

A large part of this task is, again, repetition. The Christian spiritual formation tradition is full of varied ways to work gospel repetition into your life.  Prayer, Meditation, Study, Fellowship, Confession, Thanksgiving, Preaching, Fasting, Acts of Mercy, Submission, Celebration—At the cellular level, these are all simple ways for your mind and body to repeatedly think and act the truth of the gospel.

When viewed this way, I think spiritual disciplines actually start to make sense.

~ John Stonecypher

Are You Trying to Keep God Off Your Back?

“Are you trying to charm Jesus into liking you?! Are you trying to con the Spirit into blessing you?!”

I’ll never forget these words from my mentor as he elaborated on the Good News of Jesus, and and turned my ”upside down” worldview about the Father ”right side up”!! It makes me laugh NOW! I have to admit that when I first grasped it, though, I was TOTALLY EMBARRASSED and vulnerable ”to the core” for a minute!

Lest you misunderstand, this embarrassment DIDN’T come from my mentor or the Holy Spirit! They were just speaking to me about the Reality of Jesus Christ and shining the Light of Truth, and it was overthrowing my little kingdom of blindness! After all, who wants to lose their little kingdom, when it’s the “only” security blanket they have?? Let’s be clear! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit NEVER condemn us (Romans 8:1!) After all, by God’s grace, we are ALL included in Jesus! (John 14:20) It can’t be otherwise with Jesus as our Permanent Sustainer/Creator! (John 1:1-5) Condemnation, then, can ONLY be our share in the lies of the Evil one, and our self-imposed human blindness! (John 8:44, Matt 6:22-23!)

So here is a goal you can scratch off your spiritual goal list because of Who Jesus Christ is: Scratch, FOREVER, the goal of “Trying to Keep God Off My Back!” (Yikes!)

I can hear you now, “I have NEVER had such a goal in my life!” Well, you may not have ever written such a statement, literally, but I’ll bet the farm it has been a basic motive behind some of the spiritual goals you HAVE written, such as “Pray more”, “Study more”, “Fast more”, and “Attend more bible studies.” (Some of you are probably still challenging my accusation in “‘your’ love for God,” but C’mon! You’ve bought into the same “Gospel” I have, haven’t you?? (I hope not!) You know – the “gospel” that says,

“You are a sinner! The Father is angry when sinners break his laws and somebody’s got to pay (God is going to take out his wrath on someone!!!) Jesus is kind, loving and died for you, and will keep God off your back IF you will only promise to follow his example and pray more, study more, fast more, and attend more bible studies!” THEN, even the Holy Spirit will join you in your holiness and see that you get to heaven (but ONLY if you cry out for forgiveness continually and try exceedingly hard not to break any more of God’s laws and REMAIN holy!) Maybe!”

The devastating impact of that LIE is why I wrote “Yikes!!!” above!

Can’t you feel how FAR that “gospel” is from the GOOD NEWS given us in The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and revealed in Jesus?? Don’t you see how MUCH some of our religious goals are only an attempt to keep God off our backs (and on to Jesus’ back????) Can’t you realize how we split up the personality of the One God in Three Persons and turn Him into a Jekyll and Hyde weirdo? The Triune God is the SAME in Being, Communion and Love! (2 Cor 13:14) No wonder you are STILL so up and down, insecure, and “torn apart” in your relationship with ”God” even though you have set goals for, and accomplished, many religious things for years!!!

AGAIN, to take Jesus seriously, is to believe that humanity has been Included and Adopted into the Life of Triune God in Him from the foundation of the world!

It is also to take seriously that Jesus ascended to the Father with US, with YOU, 2000 years ago, and says that the goal of keeping God off your back has never had a reason for being on anyone’s list, even in a hidden way!!! In Jesus everyone has already been made righteous; YOU have been SANCTIFIED, and redeemed! (Check it out in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.) Ha-Ha! Triune God is not only NOT on our external backs BUT dwelling intimately within you, and sustaining your very being whether you “pray more, study more, fast more, and attend bible study more” OR NOT!! You are acceptable AS IS!

Now, If you still want to set spiritual goal in these areas…GREAT!!! I DO!

I set goals about these things because I realize the Truth of our lives in Jesus! I do them because I know that I graciously share in the Divine/Human life of Jesus! I PARTICIPATE in more prayer, more bible, more fasting, and more bible studies because, in the Creative Genius of The Trinity, there are countless and myriad ways of experiencing God’s love, INCLUDING THESE!!! Ha-Ha!!!

Our One God in Three Persons CANNOT, and WILL NOT be conned or charmed into liking you because of any actions you do or don’t do! (Col 2:20-23) He has Always loved and liked you, and He always will! (Mark 12:29, Romans 8:38-39)

~ Timothy Brassell

On Submission

It’s surprising how much good theology you can learn from an atheist.

Case in point: My friend Phil (not his real name), a recovering addict who struggles with Step 2 and 3 of the Twelve Steps:  Believing “that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and making “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”  What’s a good atheist to do?  I asked him about this, and he replied:

“My higher power is my recovery group.  I can’t trust my own judgment when it comes to my addiction, so I trust the judgment of my group.  Christians say ‘What would Jesus do?’  I say ‘What would my group want me to do?’   If my groups says No, then I don’t do it.  They haven’t steered me wrong yet.”

While I would love to see Phil get to know the One True Power who is there for him, I am still happy about this step he’s taken.

He’s stumbled onto a vital practice of the Adopted Life: SUBMISSION.

Submission is a lot like fasting.  When I fast, I deny myself something that I want.  When I submit, I actively seek what you want.  Father, Son, and Spirit have great fun with this.  They know submission as an adventure, not a chore.  In my experiments with this kind of life, I set aside times where I will ask my wife/kids/friends/pastors: “What can I do for you?” and then I do whatever they ask.  It’s fun.

For me, there’s also another side to submission, related to the fact that I’m wise enough to know that I’m not as wise as I think I am.

So I’m taking up the spiritual practice of disobeying myself.  So far, the results are pretty good.  I submit to Jesus and his Gospel.  And as part of that, I also submit to His Community (the church) and to His Community’s Book (the Bible).  According to Paul, our submission to Christ has everything to do with our submission to one another (Eph 5.21-24).  A life of wisdom is a life of submission (James 3.17).  If I am a fool, it is because I have grown blind to my own foolishness.  If I am to become wise, my only hope is to submit to what anothers’ eyes see.

So here I’m learning to practice submission in somewhat the same way Phil does.  I let some wise people have intimate access to my life.  When they see a problem I don’t see, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  And when a bunch of them see the same problem, and I still don’t see it, I know there’s a good chance I’ve discovered one of my blind spots.  So if possible, I try to behave as if they are right, and then I step back to see what happens.

All I can say is this: They haven’t steered me wrong yet.

~ by John Stonecypher

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