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MadHermit

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  1. One of the great breakthroughs in modern evangelical spirituality is their discovery that early church fathers and ancient Christian monks who spent their whole lives seeking God's face and becoming prayer warriors have lessons to teach modern Christians. It's so sad that posters like Yown and Shiloh fall under the umbrella of one of Jesus' greatest pet peeves--unteachability. One would hope that the assessment of the leading evangelical journal in the world that CofD is one of the top 10 Christian books of the 29th century would arouse Fundamentalist curiosity about its merits. But they are typically closed-minded to learning from Christians from different traditions and they lack the spiritual integrity to actually read it for constructive discussion and thus they illustrate why the typical denizens of this site are the worst conceivable exemplars of the pursuit of Christian unity. Foster is one of my favorite Christian authors because his insights are based on an advanced grasp of Scripture, a thorough knowledge of the whole history of Christian spirituality, and most importantly, a life devoted to prayer disciplines. If you like C of D, you might also check out his book "Prayer," which discusses the 22 types of prayer and grounds them in both Scripture and tradition. Other books on prayer may be a better read for some due to their sensationalistic stories, but Foster's book on prayer is in my view the most mature and well-informed. Well do fundamentalist posters here illustrate Sir Winston Churchill's definition of a fanatic: "A fanatic is one who won't change his mind and won't change the subject." They lack the courtesy to respect the OP's guideline that the discussion sequentially follow the topical outline and they love to derail the thread by attacking Richard Foster, whose books are mostly relevant to the later issues specified by the OP. And Yown's bigotry knows no bounds. He falsely stereotypes all Methodists as godless liberals, when in fact most Methodists are solidly conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians.
  2. In typical fundamentalist fashion, Yown and his ilk attack books they haven't read and don't understand and post false and slanderous reviews that give them an excuse to avoid the thrill of learning firsthand why "Christianity Today" rated "A Celebration of Discipline" one of the top 10 Christian books of the 20th century. These critics lack the integrity to engage a ground-breaking spiritual work by pondering its specific insights and recommendations. How ironic that a site like Worthy aspires to be a uniting force in Christendom, but instead inspires such godless and unfair vitriol. If an evangelical journal like "Christanity Today" rates Foster's book one of the top 10 Christian books of the 20th century, it certainly deserves treatment on a site with this one's stated purpose. Sigh! Let's move on to (2). (2) Better still, restore 19th century-style class meetings as requirements for church membership. By 1870 40% of all Americans (That's "all Americans," not "American Christians") were Methodist. To be a Methodist you had to attend a weekly Class Meeting. Class Meetings required church members to give a weekly account of their inner life (thoughts, temptations, faith peace, joy, etc.) and outer life (external events relevant to their spirituality) during the past week. This discipline was used to help Methodists mature and grow in their faith. Class members would then counsel each other and pray for each other to address character flaws and flaws in the life of faith. Then in the early 1900s, Methodism was gaining respectability and members were more private about their personal lives. So they resented the Class Meeting requirement and decided at their national conference to make it optional. This decision was in effect a way to abolish the practice. Methodism has been in a slow, steady decline ever since. Spiritual disciplines and accountability are essential for spiritual growth.
  3. Your glib cliched response illustrates why churches can't upgrade their promotion of spirituality! Yes, faith comes by hearing, but today's Christians don't spend enough time meditating in holy silence to hear anything directly from God. That's the reason for Jesus' frequent admonition, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Most Christians today are not attuned to spiritual hearing. Yes, hearing comes by God's word, but by "God's Word" Paul does not have our Scriptures in mind. His reference is the divinely imparted Word that is mediated through anointed preaching to those who are sufficiently prayed up to hear it. In other words, there is no substitute for the right spiritual disciplines. That is why every believer should read Richard Foster's top selling masterpiece, "The Celebration of Discipline."
  4. I've followed Paul's advice here. Of course, this is just Paul's nonbinding opinion, but the verse raises 2 interesting theological questions: (1) What are the criteria for dismissing a biblical teaching on the grounds that it is just "an opinion" as opposed to God's Word? (2) On what basis can we dismiss biblical teaching that we don't like on the grounds that it is biased by cultural conditioning and therefore does not apply to modern times (e. g. the need for women to wear veils in church, the prohibition against men allowing their hair to grow long (But hey, what about Samson?). and Paul's command for believers to greet each other with a holy kiss)?
  5. But as a whole churches don't rely on the Holy Spirit in practice. So we need practical strategies that help make such reliance a reality and A(1) is an important step in that direction.
  6. 1. Make regular attendance of a small prayer group a requirement for church membership. I have learned over many years that regular small prayer groups are far more powerful and effective than either prayer during the Sunday service or telephone prayer chains. Though retired, I continue to attend a small interdenominational prayer group that I started prior to retirement. We have seen the blind receive a healing touch, huge blood clots vanish, needy souls given up for dead by doctors healed, and broken families receive a measure of reconciliation or at least unexpected help to minimize the tensions. These results are far more impressive than what I have observed from Sunday service prayers and telephone prayer chains. I'm not sure I fully understand why. Perhaps the very act of inconveniencing oneself on a snowy week night to participate in group prayer is already an act of faith that helps make a decisive difference. Also, prior to our oral petitions, we take time to strengthen each other by sharing testimonies and we enter a holy silence to still our minds, to place the needy under God's loving and protective care, and to receive all the grace, power, and guidance we need to pray more effectively and, where necessary, to be part of the answer to our petitions which are the subjects of our oral prayers later. Believers attend Sunday services for reasons other than prayer and pastors find it very hard to induce members to join a regular prayer group. Sermons can fire people up to pray for revival, but prayer meetings for this purpose usually quickly peter out. As for telephone prayer chains, it is too easy to lay the phoned in request aside and give I only perfunctory prayer attention. It is for this reason that membership in a regular weekly small prayer group might be needed as a requirement for church membership. I say this with trepidation, fully aware that any church that tries to implement this policy will lose many members who are unwilling to pay this price. For this reason, I never tried to enforce this membership criterion in any church that I've pastored. But the subject of this thread is how church's can promote spiritual growth in their members and I think we need some sadly and inevitably smaller churches with this level of commitment.
  7. Almost all churches need to find new ways to upgrade congregational spirituality. But what concrete steps can and should they take to achieve this goal? As a retired pastor, I have come to certain conclusions about how we do church and I want to share some simple and practical ideas that might best promote spiritual growth in a congregation. I have left out doctrinally divisive themes because I want to focus on strategies whose appeal crosses denominational lines. Please don't comment on B or C below until A has been thoroughly explored. Examine A-C and feel free to suggest other practical and realistic strategies that I have omitted. A. Corporate Spirituality Apart from the Sunday Service: 1. Make regular attendance of a small prayer group a membership requirement. 2. Better still, restore 19th century-style Methodist class meetings as requirements for church membership. 3. Sponsor these forms of community outreach: a weekly soup kitchen for the poor, a monthly service at a local assisted living facility or nursing home, an advertised monthly potluck dinner and movie night featuring Christian movies or Hollywood movies on spiritual themes with a brief discussion period afterwards. B. The Structure of Sunday Worship Services: 1. Serve Holy Communion twice a month and make an extended period of holy silence for confession and listening for divine guidance a regular part of the Communion service. 2. Require at least some of church music to express the sermon's theme. 3. Regularly observe the Lent and Advent seasons by creating worship services with appropriate themes, music, and rituals appropriate to both seasons. C. The Enrichment and Expansion of the Preaching Ministry: 1. Require pastors to accept preaching mentors or mentoring groups. 2. Actively train lay preachers and create opportnnties for them to preach on Sunday morning or at other services.
  8. I was 12 when I wrote this poem on unrequited love. I entered it in a poetry contest, but I lost and my loss destroyed my aspirations as a poet So I quit writing poems. Sigh! My heart is broken at the very thought that Thou hast spoken of our love as naught. Our sharp-edged story has etched in my mold mem'ries of thy glory encased in pure gold. Charms of other girls Cannot cast thy spell. So I shed most pearls to our sweet farewell.
  9. The only thing I have against the World Cup is that it forces me to get up before 7 AM to watch the first game of the day. I live in the Pacific time zone. I'm a football and basketball fan. But for me the World Cup trivializes both the Super Bowl and LeBron's signing with the Lakers. Soccer is the only truly global sport. Belgium will win it all It strikes me as arrogant that we label the Super Bowl winner the world champion rather than the American champion. Yes, I recognize that the NFL is a stronger league than the CFL, but the USA All-Stars only beat the CFL all-stars 13-11 in their last game. To label yourself world champion, you should be willing to prove that by playing the best of foreign leagues. Worse. the MLB champion is declared the world champion even though US teams often lose exhibition games with Japanese teams. And is the NBA justified in calling their winner world champion when they don't allow the European champion to contest that claim? By contrast, the Canadian dominated NHL only calls their winner the Stnnley Cup Champion, not the world champion. Sigh!
  10. A heart-wrenching predicament! I will respond to both issues separately: (1) Your Daughter's Desperate Situation: I retired as pastor from my church 3 years ago, but continue my membership in a small prayer group that meets every Monday for 2 hours. For about 4 years, we have been praying for a member's daughter with issues even more severe than your daughter's, issue complicated by severe mental illness. Our prayers have brought occasional improvements in her situation, followed by severe relapses. But we persevered with our intercession and this has paid off wondrously. Whereas previously this gal was too unstable and violent to live at home, now she has gained sufficient mental stability to do so. Secondly, whereas in the past she would always refuse her essential medications (substituting addictive drugs for medications), now she has overcome her drug habit and faithfully takes her medications. ASnd third, whereas she always refused counseling or therapy, now she regularly attends counseling and 12-Step groups, where she is making healthier friendships. Our little prayer group has also witnessed miraculous healings, including blindness, blood clots, and a healing touch for a stroke case so severe that doctors guaranteed the death was imminent. Do you attend a regular prayer group composed of people of faith who get results for their intercession? If you don't or if your church only has prayer groups that seem to just go through the motions and are little more than an emotonal support group, it is worth your while to call different churches and explore other prayer groups to see if you can find one composed of people with faith that makes the decisive different. (2) I'm sure you have seen a doctor about your insomnia and have googled articles on various strategies for dealing with it. So I'd make only 2suggestions in addition to joining a prayer group and asking for their intercession about this: (a) Recognize that you can't "try" to believe. The very concept of "trying" unconsciously creates the expectation of inevitable failure. What you can do instead is regular place your need in God's tender care and ask for His protection and will to be done. The relax in the arms of Jesus. (b) Once you have joined the right prayer group, you can rrgularly remind yourself that you can't change the free will of your troubled daughter, but you are doing all that God expects of you by your regular attendance of this group. God is in charge when we regularly participate in the righit prayer group.
  11. I never said that the case for Jesus' house was conclusive. But the case is far superior, for example, than the case for the authenticity of the Barden Tomb, which evangelicals routinely visit and falsely believe to be the site of Jesus' burial. If the ancient tradition about Jesus' house were a legend created centuries later, then we would not expect scientific evidence that it was only occupied around the time of Jesus. I have toured Israel, but persuaded our group to skip Nazareth in favor of nearby Sepphoris, where Josephus and Jesus likely sold their carpentry goods. I think the others in our group were glad we did because the ancient ruins of Sepphoris were awesome. It was only later that the first century dating of this Nazareth house was determined and I wish I had known that at the time.
  12. A case can now be made that Joseph and Mary's house in Nazareth has recently been discovered. For more details google "The House of joseph, the Just in Nazareth" and read the zenit article. Ancient church tradition has long identified this house as Jesus' home, but until recently scholars dismissed this tradition as a legend. Now scientific dating techniques have dated the house back to the early first century. The house was carved out of the rock of a hill. Remnants of a loom have been discovered inside, which Mary may have used to make Jesus' clothes. A large empty space has been detected by sonar inside one of the house's walls. The friend whom I encouraged to join the Bethsaida dig was invited to explore ways to penetrate this hidden space without excessive damage to the house and its walls. So far he hasn't accepted that offer, preferring to continue with the Bethsaida dig. Was this large hidden space a hideout during the failed Jewish revolt against Rome led by Judas the Galilean in 7 AD at nearby Sepphoris, just 3 miles away with a population in Jesus' day of about 25,000? The scholarly consensus is that Joseph died before Jesus began His public ministry. Joseph figures in no story of Jesus' ministry and Jesus entrusts the care of His mother to the Beloved Disciple from the cross, something He would never have done if Joseph was alive to care for his wife. Judas the Galilean recruited Jewish fighters for his revolt from nearby villages like Nazareth. When the Romans crushed this revolt, those captured were crucified and Joseph may have been among them. Is this the original reason why Jesus used the image of cross-bearing as an image of discipleship? These questions are among the most compelling questions to be posed by those want to investigate "the missing years' of Jesus' life.
  13. An important aspect of a pastoral call are the divine coincidences that provide opportunities for growth an self-discovery. When I was just 16, I was unexpectedly invited twice to preach at a rescue mission, mostly for derelicts. I was a very nervous fire-breathing dragon! What they didn't tell me is that the men were required to sit through the service's hymns and prayers, but could be excused to eat just before the sermon. Of course, the lure was the free meal. It would have been nice if they had explained this to me. Just as I got up to preach, all but about 20 of the 200 men walked out on me! I was crushed because I thought this happened because of my youth! In any case, these opportunities created a burning desire to master the art of preaching to transform. Then was I was 18, I became the president of our church's college and career class. By default, I was expected to conduct the opening exercises of our adult Sunday school session. This meant I led the singing, prayed, and shared a brief reflection before about 700 adults. This was a great and unexpected opportunity for me. I noticed for example, that my prayers were un consciously motivated in part by a desire to gain praise for my eloquence! I finally realized this when a pretty young woman complemented me for a prayer and I felt proud of my performance. Fortunately, the Spirit gently exposed my motive to me, so that I began to learn what it really means to lead worship for the glory of God. Back then, I was very shy one on one, but these opportunities made me completely comfortably before large crowds. After a 12=year career as a Theology professor, I entered full-time ministry and found this a very humbling but rewarding spiritual experience. I do believe that if you're called to preach, your initial flawed efforts will nevertheless exhilarate and challenge you. One lesson I learned about preaching is this: your preaching is only as good as your personal theological library. You need the best commentaries on specific biblical books that display expertise on the nuances of the Hebrew and Greek and on cultural background. Such a library will help prevent you from "shooting your wad" after a couple of years of preaching on various topics. Also, you would be advised to seek out and buy the best books of modern sermon illustrations. The quality of your preaching over time will be greatly effected by how uniquely you bring the text to life with modern stories. So while your attending seminary, make regular browsing trips to the seminary bookstore to see what lights your fire with unique applications of Scripture; and when you're not in seminary make regular trips to the nearest big Christian bookstore for hours of browsing before you decide which books to buy. You won't regret it.
  14. Usually good preachers are also good teachers. The more frequent problem is that good preachers, especially pastors of large churches, often lack the interest and sensitivity to be good pastoral counselors. So they delegate that to lay leaders or assistant pastors. But a newbie like you will have to start in a small church, where it is usually essential that you develop skills in both teaching and counseling as well. This fact highlights the importance of the right seminary or Bible school for you. You need a place with good courses on pastoral care and a good supervised field education program. If inimate connections with your flock's personal problems does not appeal to you, you probably lack a pastoral calling.
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