So, two Sunday's ago a reporter from the San Diego Reader showed up at church to review it for a column he writes called Sheep & Goats. The article comes out tomorrow, so we'll see what ends up coming out. I figure it can't be that bad, but we'll see.

The phrase "sheep and goats" actually comes from the Bible, and it is a pretty interesting title for a column, considering it's intended meaning Jesus.

The passage is from Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus says that, when he returns, he will separate the true believers (sheep) from the false believers (goats) and either grant reward in heaven or punishment in hell. The false believers are identified as those who paid lip service to Jesus but did not have a lot of follow-through in their actions. The true believers are identified as the ones who did not just say they served Jesu,s but their way of life and their heart coincided with their confession.

Jesus makes this statment in that story: "(whenever you do something) to the least of my brothers you did it to me". (Mt 25:40). Colossians 3:23-24 says something similar: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." We must remember that we are servants of Jesus pursuing his glory, not out of guilt and not out of an abuse of his grace, but out of a servant's heart, for if we forget we may find ourselves looking a lot like a goat.

The whole sheep and goats thing and the subject of our service and how we serve reminded me of a section in Mark Driscoll's book, Confessions of a Reformission Reverend, where he compares church members to different animals. Read through these various animals and consider what one you might be and what you you know God wants you to become.

- Horses are vibrant leaders who pull a lot of weight and run fast. Horses need to have character, sound doctrine, and agree with the vision of the church.
- Colts are emerging leaders who need training, testing, and opportunities to lead. If properly broken in, a colt can be developed into a horse.
- Fish are non-Christians who are spiritually lost and often not actively looking for God. Fish need a Christian friend to lovingly introduce them to Jesus and his church.
- Eagles are skilled leaders who are being developed within the church with the express kingdom purpose of leaving the proverbial nest and leading a ministry elsewhere, such as missions work and church planting.
- Mules are faithful workers who dependably and continually do whatever is asked of them in the church. Mules need to be thanked and protected from burnout.
- Cows are selfish people who wander from church to church, chewing up resources without ever giving back to the church until they kill it. A fence needs to be built around the church to keep the cows out.
- Squirrels are people who are generally liked because they are nice, but they rarely do anything meaningful. Squirrels need to be put to work in the church.
- Stray cats are socially peculiar loners who linger around the church. Stray cats need a friend to help bring them into the church and an opportunity to serve other people so that they can be meaningfully connected to the church.
- Rats are people who appear to have the potential to have a fruitful ministry, but they lack dependability, humility, or maturity. Rats need to be rebuked, and if they do not repent, they must be strategically ignored until they commit to no longer being a waste of time and effort.
- Sheep are people who have legitimate needs that require patient and loving support. Examples of sheep include widows, orphans, and those who are seriously ill or fighting addictions. Sheep need to be loved and served.
- Ducks are disgruntled people who continually quack about whatever they are unhappy about. Ducks need to stop quacking, or the pastor(s) must go duck hunting before the ducks drown out everyone and everything else in the church.
- Wolves are false teachers whom satan sends into the church to devour Jesus' sheep. Wolves need to be quickly identified, rebuked, and if they are unrepentant, they must be shot before their false teaching destroys people in the church.
- Snakes are evil people sent by the serpent on a mission to destroy the church through anything from sexual sin to starting rumors. Leaders must stomp on the heads of snakes before they bite people and infect them with deadly venom."

If you find you're an animal you don't like you need to kill your animal and go get a new one. That is what the gospel is about, taking us from where we are and changing us as we grasp with increasing passion the greatness of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. In the kingdom of God, goats become sheep, snakes become horses, and the great lion of Judah is our shepherd. May the blood of Jesus enrich you this week, for it covers a multitude of sins and works deeply in our hearts.
- Pastor Duane
It may not have seemed to many to be a very Christian thing to do, but on Sunday afternoon after church and after the frustrating loss of our San Diego football team (The Chargers), I went to see Resident Evil 3: Extinction with a couple of the men in the church. Before the onslaught of moral accusations about why a pastor would be interested in seeing such "R"-rated evil gore, just give me a chance to share with you about resident evil and gospel repentance.

First off it is hard not to like these kinds of movies if you are a guy. They are simple. There are bad guys, and there are good guys, and the good guys kill the bad guys. It doesn't matter to me if it is a zombie movie, a cop movie, or whatever…if you've got that storyline, I'm in. That story is something that resonates with the moral fiber of our being. We sense wrong and know it ought to be punished and crushed and destroyed and have its head cut off with a machette. For the girls out there who are like, "what does this have to do with me"…you are the princesses and we do it for you, to protect you, because you are our prize jewels!

If you are not familiar with Resident Evil, it began as a video game and then was made into a movie a few years back. The basic tenet is the same as most modern zombie movies. A virus breaks out that, when your blood comes in contact with it, you turn into a flesh-eating monster. Now, I'm sure that the screenwriters and directors do not do a lot of philosophical thought of the worldview they are attempting to communicate, but I could not help but think of the picture of the gospel latent in the operating paradigm of the film. There is a virus, which corrupts and contaminates humans, and the only one who emerges is a superhuman person who is stronger, smarter, and more pure.

This is the gospel. That all of us have been contaminated by the virus of sin, and we have a propensity or instinct or natural reaction of destroying ourselves and those around us. It starts in the heart - in our self-absorbed mental and emotional affections - and it plays itself out in many, many ways. It can be attitudes and bad thoughts about others that no one sees. Then those things almost always lead to more noticeable actions.

This week in our gospel membership class we are discussing total depravity. I don't think I could ever emphasize too strongly how much this is the case. That every faculty of our beings is contaminated by the virus of sin. We are quick to find fault with others and slow to find fault with ourselves. This is what is great about Jesus. The gospel says God sees and knows the resident evil within all of us and he sends Jesus to do somthing about it.

All of us were made in God's image…beautiful and pure, but sin has turned us all into flesh-ravaging monsters. We may look good on the outside, but as Jesus once said, our hearts are like a den of venomous vipers. But Jesus is the one who is stronger and wiser and purer, and he died on a cross to take care of the poison of sin once and for all. It takes a while - a lifetime in fact - for the anti-venom to reach all the crevices in the depth of our souls, which is why we must continually find our supply at the cross. And in order to do that we must lead a life of continual repentance.

Repetance is a word which means both sorrow and change of mind and living. This is Reformation month, because on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenburg and that changed everything. On the last Sunday of this month, I'll preach a sermon on the 5 solas of the reformation. But for now let me give you the first few words: "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ…willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Martin Luther emphasizes that the way we make progress in the gospel is through repentance.

Let me quote Pastor Tim Keller concerning repentance:
Our hope is in Christ‘s righteousness, not our own, so it is not so traumatic to admit our weaknesses and lapses…the more accepted and loved in the gospel we feel the more and more often we will be repenting. And though of course there is always some bitterness in any repentance, in the gospel there is ultimately a sweetness. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God‘s grace appears to you. (And) the more aware you are of God‘s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more you able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin. The sin under all other sins is a lack of joy in Christ.

We take communion every week at The Resolved Church. One of the reasons for that is this: repenting for the resident evil in us so that we might be changed by the gospel and find our joy and strength in the power of Christ alone. And such repentance is not just a Sunday act but our way of life. May God make us a humble, quick-to- admit fault, repenting family who is being changed as we believe in the gospel together.

- Pastor Duane
In this final week on Spiritual Disciplines, we look at WORSHIP.

Discipline means creating regular thought patterns and life practices you regularly live out on a daily basis. To be disciplined is to be Christian. Without discipline a person's life will lapse into a vague spirituality which merely follows the whim of emotion and ends up creating a very piecemeal character, run rampad with sin, and going nowhere.

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Worship is about who we are as human beings, who our god is, and how that effects our lives. As human beings we cannot but be worshippers. We are people who adore things. Everyone worships. To worship is to cherish and enjoy something or someone. We worship sports teams, bands, our husband, wife or kids, food, the ocean and all sorts of beautiful things. They are the things we spend our money and heart on. Everyone worships.

Yet there is a great difference in who we worship. The call in the Bible is to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). That means human beings are made and intended to do everything as worship of God. Our lives are intended to be an array of sorted worship to our divine Lord. Thus there are no mundane things. There are only things done out of a heart and mind of love and worship of God and things which are not. And when they are not we are not worshipping the true God.

There are all different kinds or ways of worshipping God. It has been a long time frustration of mine in Christian circles when the musical aspect of corporate singing in church is called "worship." It isn't when we do that it isn't worship, but everything else is also worship. Too often there is a certain feeling which can be experienced in a group singing songs to our God together, which gets equated as "worship." That feeling isn't what makes it worship. You can feel that at a concert of your favorite band when everyone is singing along at the top of their lungs. They may be drunk but feeling is not unsimilar. :)

What makes something worship is whether it glorifies God. And what glorifies God is thinking, feeling, and acting in light of who he is and what he has done. Life is supposed to be a continual outpouring of worship to God, where everything we do is soaked with an attitude or worship. It becomes the drive and the heart behind everything. As I type on my computer, I am doing it out of a life of worship. As I eat my breakfast I am thinking of God as my provider and his nourishment. As I walk down the street and enjoy the sun and the crisp air I recognize that I walk in God's world and I am his.

And then there are our spiritual disciplines...different forms of worship, where we take time and a committ to seeking out our God to know him and grow up into his Son Jesus. So we daily do things like read the Bible and pray and on one day we set aside all our normal way of worship to worship in a different way, with God's people. So we go to church and our conversations are worship, our song is worship, our study of God's word is worship, our taking communion is worship. It is all worship and what makes it worship is if it is true about God, if our hearts our effected in response, and we then make decisions and act in light of it.

So let us worship God. Have no other gods in your worship. But wash all your activities in worship of his name and on Sunday let us come together to join in a glorious partaking of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.

- Pastor Duane
This week we look at the Spiritual Discipline of SERVING.

When we speak of spiritual discipline we are talking about the shape or the form or the normal way of life of a Christian. It is my goal in this series of blogs to help us know more of what our everday perspective and activity should be as followers of Jesus.

Mat 20:26-28 "It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

1 Pet 2:16 "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."

Serving is a big topic. It is closely connected to the very purpose for which we were made as humans, to serve or glorify God. When we do not do that we are serving something or someone else, but we are always serving.

What is it to serve? From ancient kings who had handmaidens to fan them with palm branches to the hip hop artist or pop singer or movie star on the front of a magazine...people have thought the goal in life or the good life is to be a person where you are served.

The Bible teaches that there is only one who is to be served and that is God alone. The way of life for a Christian is to be a way of service. This is the way Jesus taught us and the way in which will truly satisfy us. When we are not actively serving God, either in our everyday operational perspective or not practically do anything to contribute to God's kingdom...then we are in danger.

We are not to serve God as though he needs us to or the job will not get done (Acts 17:25). We are to serve because that is what we were made to do and we are most satisfied as humans when we are serving Jesus rather than serving anyone or anything else.

This does not necessarily mean where you go to church or what you do at church...but it is your perspective. Whether the world is yours to be taken and used at your disposal or whether it is something you join in praise to God with and use to profit the gospel.

Human beings are meant to serve and worship Jesus and his church. What are you currently committed to doing for Jesus' church? Who each day are you making it your goal to serve? If you are serving God what is your motive? Why are you serving? What is it to serve?

God is to be at the forefront of our heart and devotion and if he is we will easily lapse into serving something else and we will end up miserable for it. So make it your daily discipline to serve Jesus. If you haven't done something outside of your normal way of life to serve God do that htis week and start making a habit of it. Walk through each day with an attitude of service. If you don't contribute your time, talents or treasure to Jesus' church, start doing that. In everything it is not people you are serving but the Lord God who is pleased with the discipilne of service. And when he is pleased we are ushered into the life of praise are intended for.

-Pastor Duane
This week we look at the Spiritual Discipline of SOLITUDE.

There is a lifestyle unique to being a Christian which takes time, education, and development to grow in...especially when you live in a land where concrete, cars, computers, and cell phones rule the land. Last week we looked at the discipline of rest, it is funny how much of the inventions of our age are actually tools to help us work harder. This week's discipline focuses on the individual's need to be alone sometimes.

Matthew 6:6 "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Matthew 14:13 "Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself."

Sometimes life can just seem to be noise and you can't drown it out no matter how hard you try. Jesus here teaches us the important of getting away and getting alone and getting with God. Interesting things happen to you when you get alone with no distractions.

In the summer of 1998 I traipsed around Europe by myself for two weeks with a backpack and my surfboard and my surfboard stuffed with Bibles to give away to people I got in conversations with about the gospel. When I was in Portugal it was easy because lots of people there knew English. When I was in Spain it was very difficult because hardly anyone spoke English and I was traveling to all these obscure little towns on the coast where there was supposed to be good surf.

I remember there was a period of time when I didn't speak for over three days. I remember being in my room in this hostel and wondering if I could still even talk and so I spoke a few words just to make sure I still could. Someone when you don't talk and you are buy yourself and you don't fill up the time watching movies, tv, or listening to music...something happens. You start to think and the voice of God becomes much louder when you open up his book and read or bend down your knees to pray. Several things were clarified for me on that trip...my calling to be a preacher, that I loved Amy and wanted to marry her one day, and that Europe desperately needs the gospel.

Solitude isn't easy. We are surrounded by people and things so much of the time. You may even be a loner and not really spend time with people that much but you are still always in the presence of something. Solitude is different. It is designated time to get away and be alone. Sometimes for days at a time, sometimes for a day sometimes for a few hours.

Jonathan Edwards knew about the discipline of solitude. Sometimes he would leave and walk out the front door and tell his wife Sarah he was going to go take a walk to "contemplate divine things" and be alone. Often, I will go down to the southern part of the Sunset Cliffs here in San Diego, just to clear my head. Down there it doesn't even seem like you are in the city. It just makes it easier to tell my God about all the things that are bothering me and to look to Jesus and strengthen myself in the grace of his cross.

If you haven't done so recently, let me encourage you to just get away for awhile and go be by yourself. When I was in seminary they took us up to big bear for a weekend. We didn't know what to expect, but the first night we showed up they handed us a sleeping bag and a flashlight and told us to take our Bible and go get lost and not to come back until afternoon the next day. I was like "what!" Maybe you need to do that, or maybe you just for a little while you need to go to a place of different surroundings and not take anything or anybody with you and be alone in solitude. Walk with Jesus, folllow him and do that and may God minister to and build up your soul.

-Pastor Duane
There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am expounding on 9 of them, one each week in my blog.

This week we look at the biblical discipline of rest. This is a discipline I have not been good at and lately I have been spending more time trying to work on, learn it and develop it in my life. Here is what I have been learning...

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God;

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Hebrews 4:9-11,14 There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest...[through the] great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.

For some, rest is not difficult for you. You are like professional resters. You sleep in, play most the day, and regularly dismiss anything difficult or challenging that might enter your mind. So some of you need to learn about the discipline of work! :) But some of those practices are actually good things that those who work hard and sometimes work too much need to learn.

What is rest? The wikipedia lord says it is to relax or take time off, lesiure, a period of relative inactivity to allow recovery and growth. The Bible's definition is "Sabbath," a solemn day of ceasing from work and focusing on or worshipping God. The problem comes when we think we need rest from God. We never need rest away from him, he is the source of rest. He rested on the seventh day after creating the universe in six, not because he was tired, but to give us a universal (pre-fall, pre-covenant) example to follow.

I think rest plays itself out in two main way, one on the individual level and one on the community level. First the individual level. Every human needs a day to stop his normal way of life activities and to sort of take spiritual inventory and spiritual leisure. For me, much of my work as a Pastor is a build up to Sunday. So I take Monday off. I begin my Monday by trying to stop and think in the morning about how I am doing spiritually in my walk with Christ and try to just sort of take a step back and enjoy God without any distraction or worries about time.

I have learned this is not easy. So I picked up a book I have been reading through called "The Hard Work of Rest." It really is a discipline to rest because things enter my head so easily that can disrupt that spirit of rest and relaxation. So now, Monday morning I turn off my cell phone and computer and hide them for the day, not to be touched until Tuesday morning.

I have learned that rest takes work, I have to guard my mind and not allow myself to think about any of the things which have to do with my normal way of life. So, since I am a pastor...yes and sorry everyone, there is one day a week when my goal is not to think about you and that is because I love you too much to allow myself to get burnt out on being a pastor. :)

Lastly, I am learning that it is important for me to go do something fun, like surfing or going to a movie or reading a new book...doing something which I enjoy and am not able to do everyday. With all of these things in place, I am able to wake up early Tuesday morning and feel refreshed and ready for the next week.

As for the community level, we are intended and made by God to worship and enjoy him together...essentially to rest in him together. Yes, all rest involves work of some kind and it is a lot of work to get the family together to go to church and put on a church service. But like the individual level, it is a different way of worship then our normal everyday communion with God. And it is rest together because of the effect it has in our souls. That is why the Sabbath is so important, why Hebrews 10:25 says "not to neglect assembling ourselves together." The human being is made to worship God with other human beings, at least one day a week.

At the risk of sounding condescending or condemning...I think I have witnessed a somewhat odd thing about Sunday worship for Christians in San Diego. Sunday it seems for some is a dispensible thing, like one will come to church if they feel like it or if there is something else going on or if you don't have to work. Now, I am not saying you can never go on vacation, I think vacations are a great application of the biblical principle of rest. The point is that the normal weekly life is for a Christian to be at church every Sunday.

Sunday is supposed to be a very important day for Christians together. As a body, when one person is not there they are missed and in a sense several other people's worship is decreased because part of the family was missing. When I don't see some of you guys on Sunday I am saddened and worried for you and hope everything is okay. Church is family, we are a family...so let us be a family of people who make a commitment together to be together on Sundays, even if it means turning down other things or potentially good jobs and not making other plans on Sunday, all because we love Jesus, our God and savior and we really love each other.

Rest is an important spiritual discipline. To steal some of St. Augustine's words, "we are restless until we rest." We need spiritual rest. Rest on the individual level and rest on the communal level. Real rest in Jesus Christ. Much love to you all.

- Pastor Duane

For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. In a picture of what the regular Christian life looks like, this is a discipline God intendes to be regular fixture.
On Sunday my father-in-law and our church's financial administrator, Gary Warkentin, gave an introduction to our service on comparing cultural worlviews of money to the bibical gospel worldview. This week we take a break from the "Developing the Disciplines" blog series to summarize his talk on Treasuring Jesus and His mission.

1. Faith and Financies are Connected

Matthew 6:20-21 "...lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The normal cultural conception is to think that what you do with your money has nothing to do with God. But Jesus in this passage puts money (treasure) at the heart mankind's pursuit and desire of heaven and happiness.

2. Wealth is not our Security

Matthew 6:25-26
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

For most of us who live in the U.S. having enough money, i.e. "financial stability" is the goal or source of one's security. Here, Jesus puts our security not in our money but in our trusting the heavenly Father, that He is the Father and that He does care for us and will care for us.

3. We are Stewards of our Possessions not Owners

Psalm 24:1
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein."

The main cultural tendency is to think that money is ours, because we work to earn it, and thus the things we buy are ours because we used the money we worked for to buy them. The Bible here teaches that everything is his and that how we work and how we buy is a stewardship of God's work and wages. We are to work hard and spend wisely so that God will be pleased with what we have done with his labor and his money.

4. Possessions are Eternal not Temporal

Matthew 6:19-20
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."

Cultural tends to value certain items very highly: expensive cars, TV's, clothes, etc. Jesus says here that all those things will lose their value so we should seek after the treasure which lasts, the treasures of heaven...the things which glorify God.

5. Give Rather than Accumulate

Acts 20:35
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

2 Corinthians 9:6-7
"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Culture tends to emphasize that what you get is what makes you happy. New things. New experiences. But the Bible's perspective that it is much more enjoyable to give to a person(s). Giving is the Bible's main paradigm for how we are to look at our money, we are to be a giving people.


Some may have been burned by churches that seemed like they were only after your money and sadly sometimes that may be the case. However, the biblical guidline is not dependent on select indivudals abuses but on God. Giving in the Old Testament was a tithe or ten percent, which can be a good guidline for us today in how much you regularly support Jesus church and mission.

Jim Elliot the famous missionary said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." If you want to know how you are doing on these things just take a look at your checkbook or think about what Jesus would see if he looked as well. Praise God for his grace which changes us and grows us up into him who is our perfect head.

May God continue to bless The Resolved Church as we attempt to treasure Jesus and His mission together by realizing that faith and financies are connected, that wealth is not our security, that we we are stewards and not owners of our money and things, that we are first and foremost to seek eternal possesions not temporary ones, and lastly, that we are to be a giving people.

Thanks to Gary Warkentin for those great insights and that consise theology of money. As many of you know we are entering our make it or break it year with the church plant. So I encourage all of you to invite whoever you can think of to come and partner with us in the plant together. In addition, if you can think of any individuals who do not live in San Diego but would like to help support the church financially, I am sending our a support letter to several of our family and friends and you are welcome to send it out as well. CLICK HERE to read and/or print our the letter.

Much love to you all,
-Pastor Duane
This week we look at prayer.

There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am expounding on 9 of them, one each week.

For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. I want to help us all have a picture of what the regular Christian life is to look like.

3. Walking in Prayer

Phillippians 4:6 "…in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

Prayer is a big subject. For those who do not know God, it seems a crutch for those who are weak. For those who know God, it is currency of the relationship. We speak to God in prayer and he speaks to us in His Word, the Bible. How do you pray? Do you ever feel like you want pray but when you go to pray you are not quite sure what to say? It is easy to pray in crisis when you have a direct immediate need, but how about regular every day prayer life?

I don't think there are any set ways you are supposed to pray every time. In fact I think God provides a myriad of ways so that we will not get stuck in religious duty in our prayer life. So here is a smattering of things that can help stimulate your prayer life on any given day.

You can try and start theologically from the top down, acknowledging and thanking God of who he is and what he has done in history and in your life. You can pray through certain doctrines of the Bible, like God's sovereignty or justification. You can pray the prayers of the Bible, there a ton in the Psalms and New Testament letters. Or you can begin with yourself and how you are feeling and communicate to God what is on your heart and mind.

I find that it is a totally different experience to pray outloud. This often enables you to be much more focused and engaged while you pray. In addition, sometimes the posture of your body can greatly enhance or effect your prayer. So try kneeling sometimes while you pray or laying prostrate, face down on the ground. In this way you communicate a humility and acknowledgement of who you are talking to.

Often times some patterns or tools can be helpful. The Lord's prayer is an excellent prayer to pray either word for word or as a pattern. As a pattern, you begin with acknowledging God as Father and speak of his perfections, then you pray for his work to be done in your heart and in the heart of others here on earth, then you pray for help for the particular day and recognize your great spiritual need which is greater than the need for food, then you think of sins you may have recently committed and confess them and ask for forgiveness, then you pray for spiritual protection against evil particularly praying for areas of sin you have fallen in some time before.

Another pattern people have used is the five finger prayer. For you thumb you pray for your friends and family (because your thumb is your tallest finger), for your forefinger you pray for your pastor and teachers (because they point you in the right direction), for your middle finger you pray for the political government (because they are the tallest), for your ring finger you pray for the weak and needy and those who don't know Jesus (because it is the weakest finger), and lastly for the pinky you pray for yourself (because you and your pinky are the smallest). Some people use acronymns like A.C.T.S. and follow that pattern of (A)doration (C)onfession (T)hanksgiving (S)upplication. Others use prayer lists. Personally, I have a list of names on a piece of paper that I pray through every day.

Prayer is important, it aligns our heart with God. We need it because we are very prone to go astray. In prayer we can make requests but we need beware not to treat God as some cosmic vending machine and get upset if he doesn't answer the way we want. It has been said, God always answers, sometimes his answer is yes, yes and here is more, sometimes no, or sometimes no, not yet.

I've read a lot of books on prayer. Some are written with the intent to ignite a passion. Some are written with the intent of communicating the practical need. The best book I have found is "Prayer" by Richard Foster. In it Foster surveys all the different types and ways of Christian praying. If you are interested in becoming a better prayerer I'd encourage you to check that out and to just spend more and more time praying. Jesus said his house is to be a house of prayer. Let us be that house.

-Pastor Duane
2. Meditation

Psa 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psa 77:12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

In our day and age, most of us, when we hear the word "meditation," automatically think of eastern meditation, where the goal is to empty your mind in attempt to gain relaxation and tranquility.

Here is an excerpt from the Upanishad, "OM! This syllable is the whole world...

the past, the present, the future - everything is just the word OM...For truly everything here is Brahman, this self, Atman, is Brahman...Meditate as OM. The wise man should surrender his words to his mind and this he should surrender to the knowing self and the knowing self he should surrender to the great self and that he should surrender to the peaceful self."

Many taking this to heart use the practice of chanting in a low voice the word "om" and try to empty their mind of everything bothering them, everything that is anything and to just be at one with everything.

The Bible encourages and even commands us to meditate (Josh 1:8) but this is not what is meant by biblical meditation. The word for meditate, here in both of these passages is the Hebrew word, hagut. The word can be connected with things like whispers and moans...especially when it is used of animals like a cow who make noises as they chew the cud, swallow it, regurgitate it and chew it some more. When connected with the word of God, to meditate is to ponder, to take in, to think about, and make plans in accordance with.

Such meditation is far different than the eastern concept. Christian meditation is not an attempt to empty one's mind and recognize one's connection with the world, but rather to fill one's mind with the things of God and his word. It is to take theology deep into the heart, to think about God and think about the cross and think about the gospel...over and over and over again. It is to have your thoughts transformed and shaped outlook of Scripture.

Our minds our already empty enough, we don't need to empty them any more, we need to fill them and teach them to think right. Don't get me wrong, not everything eastern is bad, just misplaced. Making moans or whispering words can be a great tool.

For hundreds of years many Godly Christians have used "breath prayers" to meditate, where in short whispers, you repeat the same prayer over and over again. You can make up your own, use one that is in the Bible, or use one developed by the saints. Often I use the Jesus Prayer. It goes like this, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." My dad used to use it when I was growing up, he just didn't know it had a name and he shortened it a little bit to "Jesus help!" Or some just mutter the word, "cross" over and over again. The practice is good it's just that there is much better stuff to meditate with than the word, OM.

Another practice, which is a gift God gives to some is the ability to speak in tongues. Not other languages, but a language unknown to yourself, and known only by God and possibly angels. By using the gift of tongues you can communicate the emotions of your heart which you are unable to put into words, and God hears and understands. If you don't know if you have this gift you can try in the privacy of your prayer and meditation and see if it feels comfortable, if it doesn't you probably don't have the gift. If it does feel comfortable and profitable than use it and enjoy it.

Meditation is meant to be a part of the Christian life. If you don't meditate it is easy for the state of your heart to just go unchecked. So I encourage you, meditate on the Lord regularly and you will be blessed.

-Pastor Duane
For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. I want to help us all have a picture of what the Christian life is to look like. There are many spiritual

disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am going to expound on 7 of them, one each week. We begin with the role of the Bible in our lives.

1. Walking in the Word

Joshua 1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

Psalm 1:1-2 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night."

Matthew 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

God intends that every person who is a follower of Jesus would be reading the Bible at least twice a day, in the morning and at night. Jesus says reading the Bible is more important than even eating and most eat at least three times a day. By having a devotional reading time in the evening you prepare your mindset for the morning and by having a devotional reading time in the morning you prepare yourself for the day and it's challenges. This does not take long and can be the most valuable 5-10 minutes that you spend in your entire day. Here are some helpful things I do.

Try reading through a book of the Bible. In the morning I am currently reading through the Psalms. The Psalms are great because you read words from a real person, honest about his struggles and hardship, and yet you always read of his persistent resolve to pursue and glorify God. In the evening, Amy and I read together and we just finished 1st & 2nd Corinthians not long ago. If you are married or have children, you should spend some time each day reading the Bible together.

Try reading a chapter in the morning and then re-read that chapter again at night and see how much you remembered throughout the day. When you read something in the morning try and jot down on a piece of paper something that really stuck out to you, or if you don't have paper, just make a mental note of it and try think about it several times during the day. For example, yesterday I read Psalm 56 in the morning, the last verse of Psalm 56 says, "You have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life." So all through the day I kept praying, God help me to walk in the light of life. When I was watering our lawn, I stood there with the water hose and thought, God help me to walk in the light of life. When in the evening Amy and I sat down to watch some TV, I thought, God help me to walk in the light of life.

Try reading the text from the previous week's Sunday sermon and contemplating what the words mean and how they might apply to your life. I practice this often, not just because I am the one preaching but it is good to always be learning and growing in your knowledge of God's Word. So if you have time to get some study aids and look a few words up or read something theology book related to a subject in the text, this can be a great aid in your attempt to become one who walks in God's Word.

Walking in the Word means always having the words of the Bible on our mind. In order to do that you need to read the Bible. If you are not a good reader, don't be discouraged, like everything, just practice and you will get better and better. In ancient Mesopotamia people were into worshipping idols made of metal or gold, gods they could see. One of the biggest things which made the people of God distinct was that their God was not a God you could see but one who revealed himself through words in a book. This is the reason why the ancient people of God were often known as "the people of the book." That is our identity as Christians, we are to be a people of the book, not just because it is the source for our beliefs but because it is our way of life.

May God enrich you all as you spend time reading the Bible this week.
~Pastor Duane