42 Days. Week Three.

To any of you reading this who live outside the 469, a few words of explanation are necessary.  “42 Days” is a 6-week men’s study we do once or twice a year at North Point. During this time, I’ll be posting weekly questions, quotes, and instructions for guys here on my blog.

Feel free to follow along with us.

Here’s the plan for our third week of 42 Days.

42 Days Week Three

The Book. If you are reading Celebration of Discipline, make sure you read through chapters 6 and 7 this week.  We will be considering simplicity and solitude in our study and discussion next week.

Fasting.  What did you learn from fasting last week?  Would you consider fasting again this week? Pick something different to fast from and try to dedicate even more time to your spiritual journey.

Bible Study.  Your chapter for the week is Philippians 4.  Make it your goal to read it at least twice each day.  Try reading it in different versions like The Message or the Good News Bible.  Take notes while you read. What do words and statements mean? What actions should you be taking?  What questions do you have and how are you going to pursue answers?

23rd Psalm.  The line of the week is “He guides me along the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  Try to memorize it.  Write it down and post in places you’ll see it…on the bathroom mirror or your computer screen or your dashboard.  Meditate on it. Contemplate what it means and ways you can put it into practice. Use your notebook again, to write down your responses to this amazing sentence.

Quotes from Celebration of Discipline.

“Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.”

“Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style.”

“One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.”

“The most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to set aside the time.”

“Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.”

“Meditation sends us into our ordinary world with greater perspective and balance.”

“Thomas Merton says, “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”

“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.”

Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”

“Where simplicity abounds, words can be taken at face value: there is no hidden agenda.”

Questions for Reflection.

  1. Am I pretending to be an expert where I am only an amateur?
  2. Do I fast-talk as a curtain to hide my true intentions?
  3. Do I give the impression of being something I’m not? 
  4. Do I try to impress people with my accomplishments?
  5. Am I content with my level of income?
  6. Do I act my age?
  7. Am I a compulsive shopper?
  8. Am I overly infatuated with technology (or even addicted)?
  9. Do I buy things I can’t afford?
  10. Do I neglect my responsibility to the poor and less fortunate?
  11. Can I allow unfair criticism or gossip about me, without defending myself?
  12. Do I stretch the truth to make myself look better?
  13. Do I make excuses for my behavior?
  14. Do I am for excellence in my work without regard for what people may say or think?
  15. Can I accept compliments without expressing false modesty?
  16. Am I the same person in secret that I am in front of people?

42 Days. Week Two.

To any of you reading this who live outside the 469, a few words of explanation are necessary.  “42 Days” is a 6-week men’s study we do once or twice a year at North Point. During this time, I’ll be posting weekly questions, quotes, and instructions for guys here on my blog.

Feel free to follow along with us.

Here’s the plan for our second week of 42 Days.

The Book.  If you are reading Celebration of Discipline, make sure you read through chapters 3 and 4 this week.  We will be considering prayer and fasting in our study and discussion next week.

Fasting.  The author writes the central idea of fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of purposeful spiritual activity.  Consider fasting this week, in order to pray or meditate or study your Bible with a greater purpose. Fasting from food is not the only option, although it is the one taught in the Bible.  You could fast from a bad habit, an unhealthy practice, social media, television, a certain food, people (for the purpose of solitude or prayer), etc…, as a practice of discipline.

Bible Study.  Your chapter for the week is Psalm 25.  Make it your goal to read it at least twice each day.  Try reading it in different versions like The Message or the Good News Bible.  Take notes while you read. What do words and statements mean? What actions should you be taking?  What questions do you have and how are you going to pursue answers?

*Let me know if you have any questions about Bible translations or different versions.  Give a shout if you need any help with your online Bible app.

23rd Psalm.  The line of the week is “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”   Try to memorize it.  Write it down and post in places you’ll see it…on the bathroom mirror or your computer screen or your dashboard.  Meditate on it. Contemplate what it means and ways you can put it into practice. Use your notebook again, to write down your responses to this amazing sentence.

Quotes from Celebration of Discipline

“Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.”

“Of all spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.”

“To pray is to change. All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives.”

“For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer – nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.”

“Fasting must forever center on God. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.”

“The most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to set aside the time.”

“Spiritual disciplines can do nothing. They can only get us to the place where something can be done.”

“There simply are no biblical laws that command regular fasting. Our freedom in the gospel, however, does not mean license; it means opportunity.”

“Restriction often enhances clarity.”

Questions for relection:

  1. Where and how did you learn to pray?  Was it accidental or intentional?
  2. Does the Bible teach us how to pray?
  3. Have you ever been intimidated or embarrassed by prayer?  Why?
  4. Have you ever tried to follow someone’s example in prayer, only to feel like a failure?
  5. The author states, “To pray is to change”.  What does that mean? How can it shape our prayer life?
  6. Do you think that prayer changes God’s mind?  Why or why not?
  7. Is it bad to continually ask God for stuff? 
  8. The author writes about the role of imagination in prayer.  What do you think?
  9. Do you have any addictive tendencies?  How have you struggled with them?
  10. What have you done to proactively address those tendencies?
  11. What is your first reaction to the thought of fasting?
  12. Have you ever fasted?  Why? From what? For how long?
  13. What was the outcome of your fasting this week?  What did you learn?

42 Days. Week One.

To any of you reading this who live outside the 469, a few words of explanation are necessary.  “42 Days” is a 6-week men’s study we do once or twice a year at North Point. During this time, I’ll be posting weekly questions, quotes, and instructions for guys here on my blog.

Feel free to follow along with us.

Here’s the Game Plan:

Take the next six weeks and give some real attention to the spiritual dimension of your life…

  • By joining in a weekly meeting
  • By reading the Bible regularly
  • By memorizing and meditating on Psalm 23
  • By reading sections of Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster
  • By doing some honest self appraisal

Our Bible chapter of the week is Hebrews 12.  Challenge yourself to read this chapter at least twice per day for the week.  Read it in different versions. Have a notebook and write down observations, questions, and actions to take from your reading.

The 23rd Psalm is six lines.  Work on memorizing one line per week. This week’s line is “The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.” Write it down and post in places you’ll see it…on the bathroom mirror or your computer screen or your dashboard.  Meditate on it. Contemplate what it means and ways you can put it into practice. Use your notebook again, to write down your responses to this amazing sentence.

The foundation of 42 Days this time around, comes from the book Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. To be honest, the book is not the easiest read, but I would still encourage you to get it and read it. It’s available through Amazon…new, used, eBook. You can even find free PDF’s online by doing a search.

Each week, I’ll pass on some of the best quotes from the book that will help you on your 42 Days journey…

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain…This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines – they are a way of sowing to the Spirit… By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.”

“Psalm 42:7 reads ‘Deep calls to deep’.  Perhaps somewhere in the subterranean chambers of your life you have heard the call to deeper, fuller living.  Perhaps you have become weary of frothy experiences and shallow teaching. Every now and then you have caught glimpses, hints of something more than you have known.  Inwardly, you have longed to launch out into the deep.”

“The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us.  By themselves, Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace.”

“Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people.  Leo Tolstoy observed, ‘Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.’”

“Human beings seem to have a perpetual tendency to have somebody else talk to God for them. We are content to have the message second-hand. One of Israel’s fatal mistakes was their insistence on having a human king rather than resting on the theocratic rule of God over them. We can detect a note of sadness in the word of the Lord, ‘they have rejected me from being king over them’ (1 Sam. 8:7). The history of religion is the story of an almost desperate scramble to have a king, a mediator, a priest, a pastor, a go-between. In this way we do not need to go to God ourselves. Such an approach saves us from the need to change, for to be in the presence of God is to change.”

And finally, here are some questions to help you get the most out of your study this week…

  1. What is the difference between spiritual discipline and the Spiritual Disciplines?
  2. What is holiness?  What does it mean that “without holiness, no one will see God”?
  3. What is the connection between holiness and spiritual discipline and the Spiritual Disciplines?
  4. What is the difference between being “deep” and being talented or gifted?
  5. Have you ever had the urge or yearning to be a deeper person?  What would that look like for you?
  6. For you, what is the difference between participating in church activities (however good they may be) and walking in the presence of God?
  7. Have you been transformed by God?  How do you know? In what ways are you different from the man you used to be?
  8. Do you believe the world is hungry for genuinely changed people?  If so, how do you see that?
  9. Are you going to God for yourself?  What does that look like for you these days?
  10. Are you dependent on others going to God for you…doing the hard work of listening to Him and interpreting what He has to say?  How is this unhealthy?
  11. What did you learn from reading Hebrews 12 everyday this week?
  12. What did you learn from meditating on “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” everyday this week?

Be Diligent!

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 20-27

Chapter thirteen

How do you picture heaven?  What do you think it will be like?

What do you believe about the rewards spoken of in the Bible?

Make a list of the some of the promises of God you hold on to?

If you don’t have many, why not?

Can you be satisfied with God being the one who knows your acts of service, even though nobody else does?

“We see action.  God sees motive.”  Is this good news or bad news for you?

Are you ever motivated by rewards that could come from God?

Are you more motivated by heavenly rewards or temporal rewards?

Do you feel you are being molded into the image of Christ?  How do you know?

Chapter fourteen

Do you believe unselfish living is an “art”?  Why or why not?  

This book was written nearly 40 years ago.  In what ways have you noticed differences between then and now, as you have read through it?

What does it mean to live from “the inside out”?  The author writes that you are a different kind of person, simply because you started and finished reading this book. What do you think he means by that?

Do you do better at “telling” the Gospel or “showing” the Gospel (the story of Jesus)?

Are you motivated by mercy?

In Matthew 25, Jesus says when we serve others, we are serving Him.  What do you think He means by that?

What does it mean to “lose” your life?

What is a bold act of serving you have thought about doing, but said “no” to?  Why?

How could you serve in our church family better?

How could North Point serve better?

 

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 13-20.

Chapter ten

What are some of the “perils” of your work?

What are some ways your ego gets over-inflated?

Why do we have such an unwillingness to admit we struggle?

Does God really protect us from bad things?  How?

Serving is often thankless.  How can that lead to bitterness and depression?

Do you still compare yourself to others?  Why?

Why is it so hard to confront the sin of others?  Why is it a cop out to hide behind our own imperfection?

Why is it important to do things for free?

What are the risks in loving and serving?

What is your motive for serving…really?

Chapter eleven

How would you describe yourself?

How would others describe you?

Are you a gentle person?  Why or why not?

Can servanthood be learned?

What does humility actually look like?

Do you receive as graciously as you give?

Why is it important to receive well and let others serve you?

What do we value about servanthood in the church?

How does serving bring joy?

Chapter twelve

What are some examples of suffering for doing right?

What is your response to the stories of “real life” persecution?  (How does it make you feel?)

How does stress affect you?

How did you score on the stress test?  (pgs. 183-185)

What is the purpose in struggle?  

Why doesn’t God eliminate bad things?

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 6-13.

Chapter seven

What is the reputation of religious people today?

How do you describe spiritual poverty?

What is the connection between humility and happiness?

How is spiritual helplessness the foundation of a servant heart?

Contrast weakness and gentleness.

How badly do you want righteousness?

What significant difference will the ideas in this chapter have on my life?

Chapter eight

How do you do with hurting people?  Are you drawn or do you run?

Why is mercy rarely demonstrated?

What does it mean to be real?  To be authentic?

What kinds of masks do you wear?

What are some bad habits do you need to break?

Are you at peace with yourself?

Do you build up others?

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?

Chapter nine

How are you a keeper of the spring?

Do you think things are getting better or getting worse in the world?

How are you living as “salt” in the world?

How are you living as “light” in the world?

Are you different?  Responsible? Influential?

 

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of April 29-May 6.

Chapter Four

What is the connection between forgiveness and servanthood?

What are some of your takeaways from the story of the man who requested to take the punishment of the men who wronged him?

What have you been taught about the “wrath of God”?

How does God forgiving you, make it possible for you to forgive others?

A true servant doesn’t keep score.  Agree or disagree? Why?

What’s the difference between asking for forgiveness and offering your apology?

What’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?

Is there ever a time to stop offering forgiveness?

How is refusing to forgive hypocritical?

Chapter Five

Is it really possible to forget the offense of another?

What’s the difference between forgetting and overlooking?

Are you confident you have not yet arrived?

Have you forgotten what is behind?

Are you actively moving on to what is ahead?

Is there someone or something you are refusing to forget?  What is the cost?

Are you a victim of self-pity?  What is the cost?

Chapter six

Have you ever been a victim of wrong or unhealthy teaching in a church or small group?

How has your thinking been molded or “squeezed” by the world’s way of thinking?

What are some walls or fortresses that have changed in the ways you think?

Are you ever guilty of blaming others or justifying your actions?  What has been the fallout?

What does it mean (practically) to take every thought captive?

What does it mean for Jesus Christ to take charge of our minds?

Do you find your mind being renewed these days?  How? In what ways?

How are you experiencing the power of God in your life?  What evidence do you see?

What masks of hypocrisy are you wearing?  What kind of help do you need to take them off?

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of April 22-29.

Chapter 2

Re-read the story on page 16.  How have you been guilty of buying $3 worth of God?

What were/are your dreams for success?

Read 1 Peter 5:5-7.  Who are the people you respect and turn to for wisdom?  How do you struggle with humility? What are some things you worry about?

What’s the difference between self-esteem and selfishness?

What do you learn about yourself from the story of Adam and Eve?

Page 22.  How are you guilty of being dogmatic?  Judging? Argumentative? Stubborn?

How do you define unselfishness?

On page 27, four characteristics are contrasted.  Evaluate yourself on all four (getter/giver…grudge holder/forgiver…scorekeeper/forgetter…superstar/servant)

Chapter 3

On pages 29-30, Swindoll lists a number of different philosophies.  Which of those philosophies have influenced the way you live your life the most?

Do you truly care for people around you?  How do they know it?

Do you struggle with competitive tendencies?  In what ways?

Which of the passages on pages 31 and 32 challenge your thinking the most?  Why?

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 again.

How do you feel about the command to give and serve anonymously?

Are you a generous person?  In what ways? If not, why not?

Do you generally serve and give without being asked?  What needs to change?

What is your faith “costing” you?

Are you really serious about being a follower of Jesus?  What is holding you back?

Theology 101

We just finished a thing called 42 Days.

It was a six-week journey of reading a book, making a once-a-week meeting, daily Bible reading, and a practice of general personal discipline that a group of 45-50 North Point men made together. It was a good thing. We’ll do it again, I’m sure.

But it wasn’t easy. Especially the book.

We chose to read “Crazy Love”, by Francis Chan. It wasn’t the most difficult read I have ever done. As a matter of fact, his style is easy to process and the content was pretty straightforward. But what he said didn’t sit too well.

Nobody likes to be called out for being a slug. Especially a spiritual slug. And especially not a bunch of men who have to actually look each other in the eyes and “fess up” to falling short. Lets just say our weekly meetings were not some kind of brag session on how great each of us are doing with following the commands of Christ…

For most of the guys, it was the first time in a long while…or even the first time ever… that there was any public owning of personal spiritual shortcomings or weaknesses. I can’t speak for women, but I know this is a difficult thing for most men (though I sense men and women are probably far more similar in this area than Bible scholars and cultural anthropologists think).

So here’s what I’m thinking today: How do you face your failures? How do you navigate through the flood waters of mistakes and shortcomings and willful disobedience to the statutes of a holy God? How do you stare down the man or woman in the mirror when you know the real story behind the public personna?

According to God’s word, no one is righteous…no one does good…everyone falls short of God’s standards…. We learn from the Master’s own mouth that the beginning point of a right response to God is to admit our spiritual bankruptcy…and from the writings of the Apostle Paul, we are taught that the path to spiritual strength is through the embracing of our weakness.

Hey…nobody ever said the “logic” of the Kingdom wouldn’t be counter-intuitive!

One of the boldest statements made in the Bible is by Paul in Romans 6:1-2…

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1, 2 NIV)

Should we keep sinning, keep disobeying, keep living selfishly, keep willfully living contrary to God’s revealed will for our lives, keep ignoring the needs of others and the good of the Kingdom….and then say, “No problem, I know God will forgive me!”???

To put a modern spin on Paul’s answer to his own hypothetical question… “Are you an idiot, or what?” No way are we to take advantage of God’s compassionate love for us. No way are we to deliberately and selfishly impose on his gracious benevolence towards us.

But here’s what we can do: Let your sin and brokenness and pride and laziness and obstinance and hard-heartedness and struggles with integrity be a constant reminder that your sufficiency and worth and wholeness will never be earned or deserved…nor will it ever be perfect…and that without your failures, you would never be driven to your knees for help.

Or with gratitude.

Only at Men’s Whataburger

So I’m sitting here enjoying (?) some 84 degree weather in Huntington Beach, waiting to make the three-hour drive up to the camp…through Southern California Friday work traffic. Mmmm… Sounds like fun.

Still looking forward to cool mountain temps. I will not be a particularly happy camper if…

Anyway, I thought I would weigh in on the North Point Raccoonapalooza (for all my friends who reside outside the epicenter of my world, we found out we have a whole tribe of raccoons that have set up shop in the drop ceiling of the NP Grand Ballroom and Events Center).

These gnarly little rodent-bear hybrids are going to end up costing NP a “raccoon-load” of cash, when all I said and done with the catching, relocation, clean-up, restoration, and replacement plan. Kingdom stewardship never smelled so gamey.

Back to the Whataburger connection…

Every week, at our Thursday World Problem-solving Caucus, we are joined by Mr. Luster. He’s not really part of our group, but since we think he’s related to Marshall…and they’re both die-hard Razorback fans from Arkansas…we always let him come over and give us our weekly dose of Southern wit and wisdom.

…and hope we learn some more about Marshall’s hidden lineage.

Here was this week’s serving:

(Mr. Luster) Well, good mornin’ Reverand. Where’s old’ Ellis today?

(me) We’re not sure. We think he’s in Mexico. But that’s not important. We’ve got a couple of questions for you. Do you have raccoons in Arkansas?

(Mr. Luster) Yes, sir.

(me) So what do you do with them? Do you trap them and relocate them like we do in Lewisville?

(Mr. Luster) *look of bewilderment*

(Mr. Luster) No. We kill them and eat them. They taste just like squirrel.

(me) oh.

I love Texas…reason #78:

I get to have friends from Arkansas.

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