Spiritual Disciplines

Simplicity

Simplicity: seems like a foreign concept today, huh?

Our lives are filled with this busyness; we rush from one “priority” to the next, continually active and yet never feeling like we are actually getting someplace with our life. We check items off our lists, but there is still a nagging feeling that our lives are meant to be lived differently, that there is a greater purpose in store for us.

We lack the superhuman strength to keep up with this pace and our humanity tells us that there is a cost to this chaotic activity, yet we are unable to find a way to clear our schedules of all that must be done. And so technology has become our new god, enabling us to accomplish our multitude of tasks. Its gospel is one filled with the hope of streamlining our chaotic lives by electronically packaging all of our priorities and plans into an iPhone. Accompanying our busy lives is our insatiable hunger for the material things which we do not have and cannot afford.

Human existence is currently in a frantic state.

Richard Foster describes this pace of life when he states, “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. Elsewhere Foster describes our present culture as a “modern mania.”This language may seem initially strong, but I would suggest that it is exactly the type of language necessary to wake our souls from their slumber. Words like psychotic and mania suggest that our creative nature has been altered in a way that is a perversion to our natural identity. We have become hurried creatures, a generation reliant upon Starbucks and energy drinks to compensate for our fatigue, rushing to achieve our next goal and earn our next pay raise, and all the while squandering the image of God for the image of worldly success. And while our preachers call us to pray more, give more or serve more, the message we need are in desperate need of is a call to simplicity.

But the call of Jesus on each of our lives seems to be a call to simplification. The spiritual discipline of simplicity cannot be easily defined; a definition of simple living is, ironically, far from simple. Simplicity has many facets, including generosity, humility, courage and contentment. The discipline of simplicity does not mean a call to absolute poverty, living on a subsistence level of existence. It does, however, call for a reorientation of how we view wealth and possessions. As Foster notes, “Simplicity is the only thing that sufficiently reorients our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.”The discipline of simplicity is a discipline of freedom, which allows us to engage the world through the lens of God’s kingdom and make holy decisions as a result of this understanding. We choose to no longer entangle ourselves with the cares of the world and instead focus our hearts on the things that deeply matter to God.

The scriptures are clear that there is a need for the discipline of simplicity in the church, but the question remains: how should one go about integrating it into our lives? This journey must begin with the message of Jesus, who taught us to “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Instead of letting our lust and passions drive our decision-making processes, we submit our desires to the will of God as we seek to react to the pressures of each day as we believe he would act. It is not easy and it certainly countercultural – but wouldn’t it be worth it?

So to close, where do you see Jesus the most in your life today? Where are those simple spaces in your life where you hear his voice most clearly? What would life be like if we chose to cut off on the noise that gets in the way of experience His Presence more and more? What could be gained if we chose to reframe our perspectives on living from one that is masked in chaos to one that is more entrenched in the rhythm of God’s life. We all have one life to live and give account for, let us embrace it in such a way that says that expresses Jesus way of life out to the world.

Tom Rich

#714 Prayer | WEEK 6 | Obedience

We are now in the middle of week 6 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on obedience. Obedience is a concept that most of our world wholeheartedly rejects. Somehow we have gotten to the place where the idea of someone telling you what to do has moved from being “good advice worth listening to,” to a grave injustice. How did we get here?

To thine own self be true (Shakespeare) has served as a motto that has been both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing when it allows us to get to a place of authenticity, when we tap into who we really are in Christ. It is a beautiful thing when we are awakened to see that God made us in a particular way and has called us to a particular mission.

On the other hand, it is a curse when we use this as a self-centered perspective to be our only compass to navigate the world. Instead of simply choosing to be obedient and love others, we rely on our feelings and emotions to dictate the terms for how we engage others. We get lost in a whirlwind of our own ego, and we rarely grow because our only teacher is ourselves. We get lost in this self-centered vortex where all of our conversations are laced with lines like: I think that… My feeling about the subject is…The impression I had was ….

We all need to take a refresher course on what it means to be obedient to God’s leadership over our lives. Obedience is a matter of character, pure and simple. We are obedient when our character has been forged by God’s gracious hand to see that his ways are better than our ways. We need to remember WHO it is we are putting our trust in: What is the nature of God’s character? Has he proven himself to be trustworthy? Is he good? When those simple questions are affirmed in our hearts, it increases our ability to be obedient to his will and his way.

A Story of Calling

One of the most essential things we learn on our discipleship journey is cultivating an ability to say “Yes” to God’s will for our lives. I remember when I received the call into my first ministry. I had just graduated from Texas A&M and I was considering my options for the future: seminary, youth ministry, things like that. Over this last summer at Texas A&M, I got connected with a college ministry that was doing some pretty amazing things. Relationships formed quickly there and I was asked to join their staff to be a college pastor. “Staff” usually means salary + benefits in most church contexts, but here it was a call to raise financial support from outside donors.

When I was asked to come on staff, I remember distinctly my heart singing “Yes,” while all the time my flesh was crying out even louder, “NOOOOOOOO.” My mind was flooded with a whole host of excuses for why this didn’t make any sense. Outside of having to raise support, I was sitting with a pretty substantial amount of credit card debt and this beautiful girl named Rebecca came into my life – I would surely run her off if she knew I was going to take a risk like this.

So I prayed, and prayed and prayed some more. One Sunday I sat in my room for 6 hours listening to Jason Upton (awesome worship leader) and wept before the Lord. Through this time, God kept telling me that this was the plan he had for me if I would submit and be obedient. He reminded me how he had led me to this point in my journey and reaffirmed that he would be with me every step of the way forward. I came to a place where I said, “Yes” to him and submitted to his will.

In the end, I served four years in that ministry and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. The process of being obedient and raising support was a refining furnace that solidified my calling and character. For four years, I lived on the kingly sum of roughly $11,000 a yearBALLER STATUS. Yet, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world, as it caused the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in my character. I learned to be patient, resilient and ever hopeful through this process. I got to see the world via missions trips and married the love of my life, Rebecca and even got out of debt!

I am reminded of our text that we are focusing on for obedience this week, it comes from Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-10. I personally appreciate how the NRSV renders this as it states,

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long…. Good and upright is the Lordtherefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God is the subject of the author’s prayer here. He doesn’t say “Bless my decisions, God” but rather teach me your truth, teach me your way. We need a fresh reminder that God’s heart and character are good. We need to be reminded or learn that his will is the best thing for our lives. Through the posture of submission, we can finally learn the blessings of obedience.

May God grant you the courage to say “Yes” to him in your life as well.

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

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God has called his people to pray! Our families, communities, and world are in need of healing and God makes a conditional promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that we want to live out. God is calling us as his people to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join us by:

  • Praying daily at 7:14 a.m. & 7:14 p.m.
  • Fasting one time per week
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

The Story & Biblical Literacy

As a church, we are embarking on a 31-week adventure of reading The Story. During these weeks, we will experience the majority of the biblical narratives and gain a better understanding of God’s great plan to redeem his creation. It is our hope that this journey will not only awaken your heart to experience the brilliance of the Bible, but will also give you a deeper confidence in your knowledge of Scripture.

It is important for us as a culture to reengage the Scriptures with a new fervency. It is my belief that the good people of Hamilton County hold a respect for the Scriptures; however, for the most part, we do not know about the Grand Story of the Bible, nor about the God who is at work in our midst. So many of our attempts to get the gospel message out have resulted in whittling down of the Scriptures to look like nice and tight formulas. But the Bible isn’t a book of equations; rather, it a love story that God is writing with and through his creation. In this book, we experience a God who interacts with his people, leading them toward justice, mercy, forgiveness and love. 

One of our goals as a church is to increase the level of biblical literacy in our community. Our working definition of biblical literacy at WRCC is to “have the skill set to study Scripture and the wisdom to apply it to life.” There is a direct correlation between how often a person engages the Scriptures and his or her development as a disciple.

So what does it mean to be biblically literate? Does knowing Scripture equal knowing every fact and detail in the Bible? Does it mean that we are going to start having “sword drills” in our worship services and watch Keith Comp go through a battle royale with fellow church members? As enjoyable as this might be, this is not what biblical literacy means.

Having a skill set to study Scripture means that you know what sorts of questions you should be asking of the text. Questions like:

  • What is the context of the passage?
  • What is the historical, cultural, and economic backdrop to the text?
  • What type of literature is this? Is it poetry, prose, history, parable, letter?
  • What was the author, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, trying to tell the readers?

These are not questions we expect you to ask or answer on your own. The Scriptures were written with the intent of being read and understood within a community. While we should all be reading on our own, we come together every week to try to unpack these things together. This is why we encourage you to attend corporate worship and participate in a life group. It is only within a community that we can properly engage the Scriptures and gain the wisdom we need to apply them to our lives.

We encourage you to journey through The Story with us, learning about and experiencing the great plan of redemption that includes you and me and everyone around us. It is my prayer that we would each find our place within this great story as we venture through God’s word together.

 

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor