Archive for category #Spiritualshape

Advent3 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 “3 Rules for Christmas”

LSU training in the off season

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. [NRSA: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24]

Normally we think of Christmas as a time to forget someone the rules, but 2020 has been a challenging year, and Christmas may be the best time to remember our guiding three rules.

Wesley’s core teaching about Christian living are to 1 do no harm, 2. Do all the good you can. 3. practice the disciples of spiritual growth.

Do No Harm:

  • Tpically, this is a no-brainer, we don’t want our words and actions, or our silence and inaction to harm others.
  • Sometime we are advocate for others when we speak up and find proactive ways to help others.
  • Sometime we are to refrain from talking so that others may speak for themselves.

WE ASK IS MORE HARMFUL TO SPEAK OR BE SILENT?

  • There are times that we spend, and times to save.
  • There are times to be reckless in our loving, and times to cautious in waiting and watching.

WE ASK IS IT TIME TO BE INVOLVED PERSONAL OR WAIT FOR a FUTURE TIME?

  • In some circumstances it is impossible to avoid harm.
  • If we choose to help one person, we no longer have resources to help another.
  • If we choose to be friends with people who belong to one group, we may be excluding ourselves from being intimate with another group.
  • In choosing who you are going to marry and spend a lifetime together, there may be one person who is thrilled while the other is disappointed.
  • Before we can actually choose, we need to qualify and name whom is being harmed.
  1. In matters of personal safety,
    1. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence in my life as my friends.
    2. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence because they need a good friend.
      1. Some times we are not strong enough to be the friend in a risky situation.
      2. Sometime we are not truly friends until we can share each other burdens.
  2. In choosing, it is important to be honest with God, ourselves, and others and for some people we say, I can’t be your friend at this time because I’m too tempted to be around you while you are behaving as you are. I can connect from time to time but I can’t be there for you at the moment. I hope one day soon that I can.

Behind this honest connection is not just an excuse to get our of being in a difficult relationship, it is stating that I need to not be tempted, confessing that I’m not strong enough to be in a risky situation, because I will make poor choices given the opportunity. This is also a confession to God, that I have a greater need for God to be guiding my life. Both persons need the benefit of friend, but it is too risking at the moment.

What is the better choice: Telling someone you know who needs a support and friend that needs your friendship or do you risk both of you missing out of what your time together could be?

There is a better answer: We are going to commit to being friends but we both needs some accountability to protect each other. This is where God works through use as mediator for others, in small groups, in support groups, in mutual counseling and many other ways.

Do you give money to someone who is hungry on the side of the street? Is it doing more harm to potentially contribute to someone’s perpetual poor choices or not give them something and hold them accountable.

  1. It is actually more comforting to the donor or helper than a transformation of life for the recipient. The answer to the question is both have good, but neither is a solution. If someone is hungry and asking for help at least it is easy to identify a need in our community. Many more people live meagerly and we don’t know, we don’t see it. Someone on the corner is visible. On the other hand a handful of change or fist full of Benjamins will not be enough to solve all the typical struggle that lead to someone in that situtaion.

The way to look at the choice of what is harm is to be in conversation with God about our world around us.

There are concrete times that God has said to me: This persons needs that $5 in your pocket much more than you. And other times, God has said, not now, even if you gave them $100 there are not in a place to make wise choices. The difference is who is defining the harm.

Do No Harm, is to be defined by God and the only way we know is through rule number three:

Do all the Good you can.

We like this one because it adds a qualification that the first rule does not state, but both are implied. That is that perspective that tempers what we are able to do.

Do all the Good, holds the same struggle that at times we are not sure what the good is and it become filtered by what WE say is good, or what it Good for us.

Sometimes, doing that which is good for God, is not good for us personally, at least in the moment.

  • These are the times that we experience personal sacrifice.
  • These are times that we learn about our relationship with God and how much we trust or question God.

Examples:

  • Just as a parent might choose for a child to go on an adventure they would love to experience, but they stay home so the child can know the blessing.
  • Just as co-workers choose to work together for the company’s success
  • As teammates struggle are personal harm to secure the win for the team, the coach, the school, the fan, parents, etc.

Just as in measuring what is Good, we are called measure Goodness by God’s standard and direction.

Good for our friends, work, political parties might be 180 degrees from God’s call upon our lives. The way we discern what is GOOD, is through practicing rule number three.

3. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Growth

This is where the church is at its greatest help, because even the evilest person with the evilest intentions and goals, can justify what is harmful to them and their cause, and what is good for them personally and for their efforts.

In truth, Rule #3 is the backbone and strength that make keeping Number 1 and 2 possible.

What are the ways we practice our spiritual development. What spiritual exercising build our spiritual nature.

  1. Prayer – Meditation
  2. Study
  3. Worship
  4. Fasting
  5. Confession
  6. Christian Fellowship
  7. Rest
  8. Holy Communion
  9. Serving
  10. Generosity
  11. Chastity
  12. Disciples Making

If you are conditioning for a sport or team:

  • there are skills to practice,
  • repetition of practice with regularity,
  • planning and forecasting,
  • eating well and resting
  • celebrating and nurturing the individuals and the team.

How well would the game go if an athlete is devoted to doing one or two of these things well, how would that effect their own performance and their contribution to the collective work of the team.

This final rule is the one that will make the most different in our understanding and experience of Christmas and our Christian living: Practicing the disciplines of spiritual growth.

What do I want for Christmas VS what do I need for Christmas to be the transforming-life-changing time of my life, your life, the life of the church?

  • WORK ON ALL 12
  • Help encourage one another in all 12
  • Don’t let each other off the hook for all 12

Practice all the tools that make us ready to do no harm and do all the good that we can. For in Christ I can do all things in Christ who gives me/us strength… be strong in the disciples, it be strong in the Lord, in the church, in the world, in our lives, in our relationship.

This is not the time just repentance, don’t just look at what’s missing, look at the missing parts and get fired up! This is time to put the spiritual sweat into the life God is calling us to live.

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Hebrews 13:12-16 Three Rules: Refresher

Three Tools

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [NRSA]

John Wesley’s “Three Rules” are 1) Do no harm, 2) Do all the good that you can. and 3) Continue to grow Spiritually by practicing piety.

Wesley offers these three rules from the perspective of living as Sanctified people who are always moving toward Christian Perfections, which is our wholeness in God. 

Therefore the rules are the guide for growing into the people God has hoped and dreamed we would become through Christ.

The reality is that we have conflicts and problems with the three rules. 

  • We don’t always avoid doing what is harmful, sinful or evil. 
  • We don’t always do what is good for God and others, much less ourselves. 
  • And we are spastic in prating our spiritual maturity, as we generally believe we have figured enough out to get by until we have crises we can’t handle.

All this affirms that we don’t fully understand the three rules as helpful tools. As simple rules, there are ideas for us to think about in our head. I offer the tool bag instead. Wesley’s three simple tools.

The first tool is the hammer. It is weighted, purposeful and designed to be used to construct when used properly. It is to strike metal nails and not fingernails. When you hit your finger, it not only cause you to take the Lord’s name in vain or at least shout our in pain, it leaves a bruise or it might take off the fingernail or open the skin for infection on top of the pain and soreness.

No one would willfully hit their thumb, but it happens. No one would strike another person with a hammer but it happens. The heavy hammers in tired and sweaty hands might drop and injure a toe, a co-worker or cause damage to the building project.

The hammer has the ability to do good or harm. Don’t intend harm with a tool number one. 

Parenting. As a parent I know that sometimes setting a limit, pointing our an error, or protecting a child or the family from harm means saying “No.”, setting boundaries, and even providing a measure to shape attitudes and behaviors.  From the child’s point of view, they might feel they have been harmed. So doing no harm would actually be doing harm. The perspective and intent determine when our actions and attitudes are harmful. 

  • People will say “the church didn’t love me, because they didn’t approve of my sin.” We address sin so that we can, “go and sin no more.”
  • They didn’t give me money to they don’t show the love of Jesus, “They are all hypocrites.” We are not perfect, but loving is not always pleasing.
  • I didn’t get my way, so the church harmed me.

… in these, we take the tool of “Do no harm” and use it as a weapon rather than a tool for constructing that which is good for God, others and ourselves. 

Perspective and intent are what the first rule/tool is all about. 

Clarified: Do No Harm is: in all we do, don’t intend to reject, don’t plan to harm, don’t let anger, fear, disappointment guide your thoughts and actions. 

Tool number two:   The Spoon

“Do all the Good that you can.”  This is one is where the church may find its greatest threat. We assume this rule set the highest demand that we always do good. We learn from the first rule that what is good is not determined by what others ask of us, nor is it the good that we define.  Goodness is defined by God, for God’s purposes.

A spoon is a great tool. It can be used to feed ourselves or someone else. It allows us to gather bite-sized portions and deliver something that is good or evil. 

You know the saying, “He can dish it, but he can’t take it.” We want Good to come to us. This second tool is like the basic lesson of loving one’s neighbor, “Love your neighbor like you would like for your neighbor to love you, whether your neighbor loves you or not.

The spoon carries a portion of something that is unconditional. We can hardly do good for those we know and love; when it comes to loving those who are different or showing Goodness to our enemies, rivals and those narrow-minded knuckleheads would don’t think as we do.. The temptation is to avoid them, appease them or draw our line of goodness in the sand stand before them and God knowing we have done our part.

The power part of the spoon is that offers a controlled portion. My doctor said to me, “if you eat a spoon of ice cream, you are doing ok, if your portion is the whole container, you are way out of bounds.” 

Don’t become overwhelmed with doing everything well, all at once, all the time. When we have the commandment to show Goodness and we fail or fall short, we get overwhelmed. 

The constructive use of a spoon is that with one portion we can take the next step of turning around a past of doing harm, doing evil and being broken in sin. One spoonful of good does not equal all the injustice and brokenness we create, but with one act of doing Good transforms the direction of our faithfulness. The more spoons of Goodness we share the closer we move toward God and all the people of God’s work. 

Clarification: When we do what is Good, we are taking small bites of doing things God’s way. 

The third tool is a treadmill. Practice your piety, growing in Christian fellowship and maturing your Spiritual self with God, others and ourselves.  

NO!! Not the treadmill! Everyone knows what the treadmill is for. Walking, running, exercise. How many people have purchased a treadmill or other exercise equipment as a yard sale, only to later sell the same machine at another yard sale?

The good use of the treadmill is not as a place to hang clothes or store boxes of junk. The ownership of a treadmill offers no health benefit unless we use it. 

Even a basic treadmill has some measurements. Time, distance, difficulty and measure of work accomplished. 

The appropriate use of such a device is to use it, daily. The third rule is best used in the third tool. 

Think of all the wonderful things we can do to strengthen our relationship with God, our neighbor, and our enemies that don’t require elevating your heart rate!!

  • Singing, 
  • Worshiping, 
  • Praying, 
  • Studying, 
  • Journaling, 
  • Fasting, 
  • Serving, 
  • Witnessing, and 
  • Sharing in fellowship with other Christians. 

Think of how practicing these spiritual exercises will build spiritual muscle for when we are dealing with rule ONE and TWO.

Three Tools: A Hammer, a Spoon, and a Treadmill

Three Rules:

Be intentional about building God’s kingdom and not simply avoiding harm.

Be repetitive in a diet of doing Good, one bite at a time

Be renewed and growing practicing on Spirit on God’s treadmills

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