Category Archives: Ministry

A Rule of Life

Several years back I participated in a continuing education effort that introduced me to the idea of a rule of life. I did some reading around the origin of rules among the Early Church Fathers. I also joined a clergy group in visiting a Benedictine monastery where we learned more, first hand, about the Rule of St. Benedict. As a dyed in the wool Protestant – Baptist at that – these were new discoveries for me. But I found I was drawn to learn more.

St. Augustine is reported to have been among the first to develop and write out his rule for those whom he mentored and guided in the faith. St. Benedict developed what has become the most known of the monastic order rules. My copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in English is 96 pages long. It covers such things as praying the hours, guidelines for brothers living in communal quarters, and very practical things such as “restraint of speech”, “humility” and “hospitality”.

The idea of following a rule of life, that is a prescribed routine or set of guidelines by which you live; while it sounds restrictive, may actually bring freedom to one’s faith experience. By definition a “rule” is simply a voluntary means be which we, under God, take responsibility for our (spiritual) lives. I put spiritual in parenthesis because I’m not sure we should delineate that part of our life from the rest. Bottom line, a rule can bring order to your life and help you stay centered in Christ. It’s very structure can free you from the chaos and wanderings of an undisciplined life.

After the visit to the monastery and some further reading, I set out to write my own daily rule. In it I prescribed for myself a daily routine of spiritual practice, work, exercise and play, as well as family time and reading. It was an interesting experiment that helped me think about how a focused approach to daily life could organize one’s faith development. I’m not sure how long I stuck with that rule, but it was for a season.

Today, my rule of life is much more free flowing, though some of those very practices mentioned above are still part of the flow. Having anchors or routines in your life that call you to prayer, remind you to read, or bring you into faith community is healthy and helpful.

This Sunday I’ll be preaching on the rule of life that Jesus gives us Matthew 7:12:  In everything do to others as you would have them do to you. (NRSV) His rule is much easier to remember than the one I wrote, or the one the Benedictines live by. If only we all took it to heart, what a more organized, thoughtful and free world we would live in.

What is your rule of life?

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Faith, Ministry, Pastors, Spiritual Formation

What do you treasure?

In Matthew 6:21 Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, what do you treasure? We all treasure something. Most of us more than just one thing. From the youngest to the oldest among us, our treasures are revealed in the spaces we occupy and the way we utilize our resources – that is, how we spend our time and money.

It’s been said that “life organizes itself around the heart”. This is to say we give priority in both our emotions and will (the heart was long believed to be the center of one’s will) to those things that concern our hearts. Treasure and heart often occupy the same real estate. So, I’ll ask again, “what do you treasure?”

This verse of scripture is part of a passage that contains Jesus’ teaching on prayer ( see Matthew 6:9-13). In my study of the text this week I’ve made a connection between Jesus’ statement on treasure and the prayer he taught his disciples. We might think of this prayer as a coaching guide toward learning to treasure the things of God’s kingdom. In other words, prayer in the example of this model prayer, will help us organize our hearts around the priorities of the kingdom of the heaven.

This will be part of what I hope we discover together this coming Sunday as we continue our journey in Matthew. This week’s gospel focus is Matthew 6:7-21. Join us!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Formation

Kingdom Light

We’ve had a tradition in our home over the past several years when we pack up the Christmas decorations to leave a few twinkle lights up with the greenery on top of the cabinets in our kitchen. We leave them up through the month of January and this seems to help dispense some of the darkness of winter and brighten the mood.

This past December when I put up those lights I decided to upgrade to LED technology, believing these “light emitting diodes” would use less energy, thereby cost less to burn and last longer. However, when my wife came home from work and saw the upgrade she said she didn’t like the LED lights. They were “too bright” and not “warm” enough.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Faith, Ministry

Family Matters

When I was a kid, I remember a couple of family reunions we attended.  These were usually held on a hot summer day in our local city park.  It was one of the few times each year we came into the town park, and it was one of the few times in my (as then) short lifetime that I met most of these “relatives”.  

I remember being rather astounded to discover we were related to so many people, of such variety.  At least they seemed varied to me – not at all like my family of origin that was rather polite and reserved in demeanor.  Not these relatives, at least the ones that left a memory mark.  They were different. Bear in mind these memories come many years removed from who I was then – a child of 7 or 8 years.  Still, the fact I remember suggests an impression was made.  

How could you not remember, though, the man (somehow related) who hovered over the food tables insisting that you try the dish that his wife made?  In his mind it was not optional.  Everyone was required to eat a bit of the Mrs.’ dessert or salad, and then make a complimentary remark about it!

Or what about all those elderly relatives who insisted on pinching my cheeks, or commenting on my growth spurt, or saying how much I looked like my Grandpa.  I’m sure they meant well, but what little boy of 7 wants to be told he looks like his Grandpa?  What are you supposed to do with that? 

Then there were Grandpa’s brothers and nephew who were as loud and brash as he was quiet and reserved.  I could never quite work out in my mind just how they were possibly related.  In fact, I would have bet on adoption had it not been for the fact that they looked so much alike. 

Family.  “You don’t get to choose your family.” Or do you?  

The Apostle Paul uses several family references and terms when writing to the churches of the first century.  He calls his fellow Christ followers “brothers and sisters”, talks about our “adoption” into the life of the Spirit, and says that we are “heirs” with Christ.  Why so much family verbiage? 

The family or “household” unit in first century Greco-Roman society was the primary unit of the society.  A household, however, was not limited to one’s immediate relatives, but likely included several others: slaves, servants, hired laborers, clients, business associates, and extended family.  It was a relationship of dependence, not mere kinship, that constituted the household.  All of the individuals were in some way dependent upon one another in sustaining a day to day way of life. 

Might Paul have had this reality in mind as his prototype when he writes to house churches about their family units?  Society already provided something of a diverse model in terms of socio-economic status within a household; but under the grace of Jesus, Paul extends this diversity to include: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female (see Galatians 3:28).  The family of God, or household of faith, was to become a place where divisions were broken down and persons of different backgrounds came together in the common identity and mission of Christ.  You choose to become part of this family by virtue of your profession of faith, but you still do not choose who your family members are – you simply grow to understand and celebrate their differences within your common household of faith.

The new tag line we have adopted at First Baptist Columbus, complimenting our new logo is “Come join our family of faith.”  During the season of Advent I will be preaching a series under the theme “A First Baptist Family Christmas”.  This Sunday’s message is titled: What is (God’s) Family?  

I hope you can join us for worship (9:30 a.m.) in person or via live stream.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Holy Days, Ministry, Uncategorized

Gifted and Grateful – Part 2

If all that we have is a gift from God (Psalm 24:1a), including the gifts we each are given by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3&6); what is our proper response to this? I believe it is gratitude.  In Christ Jesus we are invited to live a life of gratitude – to “give thanks” in all circumstances (I Thes. 5:18). Do you do this?  It is easier written than accomplished, that is for sure.  But living a grateful life and practicing the basics of gratitude is something we can aspire toward.

In her book Grateful Diana Butler Bass suggests that gratitude can be both an emotional response and an intentional choice.   We feel grateful in response to things that happen in our lives.  That feeling leads us to want to express thanks and appreciation.  Much more than being a transaction of debt or duty, our gratitude comes from our response of having received a gift.  This gift may have come from a friend or family member, or from God.  We express gratitude in return as a natural expression of what we feel.

But gratitude, according to Bass, is also an ethic or choice.  We practice habits of gratitude (such as volunteering, giving, worshiping) that further instill a spirit of gratefulness in our being.  By making the choice of gratitude we begin to live a grateful life.  Gratitude then grows within us, as a part of our being, and is naturally expressed in our interactions with others, including God.

If we wait to engage gratitude when we feel like it, leaving it in the emotional response only category, the frequency with which it is expressed may suffer.  However, if gratefulness is cultivated as a practice – a daily choice – then it will become a more known quantity in our life.

I frequently engage in an ancient spiritual direction practice called the examen, or examination of conscience.  In this practice one collects all that has happened over a period of time – let’s say the past day – and reflects on it.  One of the questions I use in my practice of the examen is: “What am I grateful for?”  I will then list off those things, giving thanks for each of them.  I will also sometimes ask: “What am I not grateful for?”  Forming that list creates the opportunity to ask why, and consider if I might choose another response.  I bring this time of reflection to a close with a final question: “What, if anything, is God inviting me to do or be?”  That is, in response to my gratitude, or lack thereof, am I being directed, or re-directed, to respond in some way?

By practicing the examen I am making the effort to look at life through a lens of gratitude.  When I do, I am reminded of the many gifts I have been given.  Gifted and grateful are two fundamental actions of stewardship involved in the practice of faith.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Faith, Ministry, Pastors, Spiritual Formation, Uncategorized