My goodness! It’s been over 3 months since my last post on my blog. That’s a little sad, but this blog is going on fourteen years old and the continuing evolution of my soul and relationship with the Godhead has taken me on a number of twists and turns with respect to life priorities. I’ll share more about this in the coming weeks as I make reentry to the blogosphere, but I thought I’d post this audio file of a sermon I shared yesterday with a sister congregation here in Washington.
This message was timely, in my opinion, especially with regard to the tensions currently felt in our great nation, and most certainly with regard to the political season we presently find ourselves.
The message of our Great God is GOOD! We are Good News People and we should live according to the good news (Gospel) we profess and proclaim. In this message taken from the text of Acts 17, I share how we can model what we learn from the Beroeans and the great Apostle Paul.
I hope you enjoy the message and would love to interact with your thoughts in the comments section here.
Nipsis: A Pre-Advent Meditation [29NOV2013]
Readings: Psalm 140, 142 ◊ Isaiah 24:14-23 ◊ 1 Peter 3:13—4:6 ◊ Matt. 20:17:28 ◊
Also Reading the Philokalia Vol. 3: Forty Texts on Watchfulness, St. Philotheos of Sinai
The season of Advent has become one of my favorite times of the year. I like the tone of the meditations; centering the attitude of my heart around the themes of waiting, preparing, hope, watchfulness, peace, joy, and love. The cycle of the year seems to grow heavy by the time that Advent arrives and entering into the season seems helpful in the recalibration of my spirit. Yes, I really like this time of year.
There are several prayer habits that I have made a regular part of my Advent devotions. One exercise is a lengthy Examen that I employ, asking the assistance of God the Holy Spirit to help me evaluate the personal rule of life I have been living with for the previous year. In the coming weeks, I will determine, by God’s grace, the changes that will make up the rule I will live with for the coming year. Another prayer habit I enjoy during this season is a renewal in my “watchfulness.” Reading today from The Philokalia, I was reminded of the importance and quality of our watchfulness (nipsis) as we wait for the return of our Savior King. I haven’t heard this word, nipsis, before and was prompted to do some research into its meaning and use. Here follows what I found:
Nipsis (Greek)— literally, the opposite to a state of drunken stupor; hence spiritual sobriety, alertness, vigilance. It signifies an attitude of attentiveness whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, maintaining guard over the heart and intellect. It is closely linked with purity of heart and stillness. The Greek title of the Philokalia is ‘The Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers,’ i.e. of the fathers who practiced and inculcated the virtue of watchfulness. This shows how central is the role assigned to this state.
Upon reading these words and as I prepare for my own recalibration of spirit, I remember again the words of Jesus; “Pay attention to how you listen” (Luke 8:18). This is a state of watchfulness, spiritual waiting and watching, always in a state of ready and preparedness. It is so easy to become distracted and/or to be so busy doing and going that we are lulled into a state of stupor, or worse, we fall asleep at the wheel. Jesus told his followers to remain alert, be prepared, and always watching for his return or coming. This is Advent, it is the season of The Coming. Here, in this time, we are reminded to assess the condition of our wait and watch…make adjustments where necessary and recalibrate the tuning of our heart.
“You are the Sovereign LORD, the strong one who rescued me…” (Psalm 140:7)
As I prayed and meditated this morning on the quality of my watchfulness (nipsis), I was prompted to write the following words in my journal:
Each day we awake to the crossroads of endings and beginnings. The path we choose determines the nature of our continuing journey. Endings have their rightfully earned places in our journey; however, beginnings are the fuel for our life. Beginnings bring hope and fresh-eyed expectancy—beginnings spark fervor and determination…beginnings are blank paper with much room to write, while endings are mostly finished stories that barely have room in the margins.
I awaken to my “new-day” beginnings with hope renewed. The sky is blue, and with sails billowing with the breeze, I cut away the lines that moor me to yesterday’s endings. I break the chains that join me to my heavy anchor releasing my soul to move out and into the infinite horizon of beginnings.
Today is a new day. Today I shall kiss yesterday’s ending good-bye as I embrace today and… begin again.
“I cry out to the LORD; when I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You alone are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life… for you are good to me.'” (Psalm 142:2-7)
This was a sermon I shared in yesterday’s continuation of our “One Church” Core Values teaching. My contribution to this was centered on our core commitments of Growing through Spiritual Development and Loving & Encouraging One Another. I am including the audio file as well as my sermon notes. I always enjoy feedback and discussion!
I just finished the book, The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller (author of The Reason for God and Pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan). This was a very good read, one that I will place on high recommendation for others to read. The primary text for this book is the Parable of the Lost Sons from the Gospel of Luke (chapter fifteen). Keller provides wonderful insight to this parable of Jesus that is often missed with a first reading. With a little effort, homework, and hermeneutical digging…a studious reader can uncover and discover a similar line of thinking that Keller exposits in this volume.
I was excited, encouraged, and affirmed while I was reading The Prodigal God. A little over a year ago I shared teaching in a series at my church titled, LOST. One of my assignments was the Parable of the Lost Sons. I was amazed while reading this book by Tim Keller how much my sermon agreed with his explanation of the parable. Truthfully, I was so amazed that I began to doubt my own resources and wondered about my influence. I went back to my notes and compared the date of my studies with the release of Keller’s Prodigal God. I found the release date of his book was a couple of months after my sermon was recorded. My next step was to compare my study resources with his book citations and notes. I found several similar resources and began to feel much better about the eerie similarities between my sermon and his book. I’m not sure which commentaries Keller refers to as he does not list them, but he makes mention of special thanks to Kenneth Bailey. The works of Bailey were instrumental in my own studies. In addition to Kenneth Bailey, I too consulted many commentaries along with quite a few cultural resources and studies directed specifically to the parables of Jesus. Some of the more influential works from my library include the following: Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey, The Parables by Brad Young, and Klyne R. Snodgrass’ fantastic work, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus.
I thoroughly enjoyed “filling in the blanks” of my own interpretation with the insight from Dr. Keller and think there is much to glean from this particular parable. I am including a link to the audio of my own analysis from the teaching I shared back in August of 2008.