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Archive for January 2015

The Discipline of Friendship

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Before you read any further, grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Think of something in your life that you’re grateful for and write it down. Next, think of something that is a concern to you and write it down. Finally, think of all the friends you have. How many of them know the answer to the previous two questions? Chances are that it is less than a handful, but hopefully it is more than zero.

Here’s the thing, out of all the spiritual disciplines that we practice (prayer, fasting, Bible reading, etc.), I wonder if, just maybe, the most important spiritual discipline you can practice is the discipline of friendship. Now, I imagine that most of you don’t think of friendship as a discipline, but for many of us, friendship, not just friendship, but authentic friendships are missing in our lives. Individualism, autonomy, privatization, isolation, and secret sin become barriers to having authentic friendships. This is a great misfortune because it is in authentic friendships that we develop into what God wants us to be. This doesn’t just happen automatically. It is something we have to work at. We need to place ourselves in situations where authentic friendships happen. We need to practice the discipline of friendship.

Jesus is our supreme example of friendship. At the core of His ministry was a deep friendship with the apostles, whom he called “friends” (John 15:13-15). The author of Hebrews talks about the importance of friendship when we are warned “not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). This is a call for friendship with other believers, because without it we will never be all God wants us to be.

One of my favorite stories on friendship is found in Mark’s gospel (Mark 2:3-5). A paralyzed man was brought by four of his friends to where Jesus was preaching. The crowd was so large that the men were unable to get to Jesus through a normal route, so they carried the man to the roof, tore open a hole in it and lowered their paralyzed friend to where Jesus was. Jesus saw the faith of the paralyzed man and his friends and healed him. I want to be the kind of friend that the paralyzed man had. I have been fortunate to have friends in my life like he had. I was going through a very challenging time in my life a few years ago and I had a handful of friends who “carried” me.

You see, as followers of Christ, friendship is not optional. We are in a relationship with God and His people and God’s truth is most effective, learned and lived through relationships. So, we must get past our individualism, isolation, and sin and both pursue and practice authentic friendships in our lives.

Kent Hughes sums up friendships best when he writes, “Friendships hold the promise of grace!”

~ Tim Hall
https://twitter.com/1timothy12
(I encourage feedback, questions & comments – email me at 1timothy46@gmail.com)

Interrupting Heaven


The Discipline of Prayer

Why do you pray? Some of you would say because Jesus expects us to pray. He told His disciples that they should “always pray” (Luke 18:1). The Apostle Paul also makes it clear that we should pray when he writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). But why do you pray?

You see, most of us don’t pray because Jesus expects us to pray or because the Apostle Paul writes that we should. Most of us pray out of desperation. People who are going through marital problems and are facing divorce pray. People who have children that run away pray. People who hear from a doctor that the lab reports show that it is cancer pray. When we reach the end our own abilities or the limit of our resources, we pray. In those moments of crises, prayer becomes instinctive and we pray without even thinking about it. We pray because prayer changes things.

Another reason we pray is because prayer feeds the soul. There is a pattern of Jesus’ life that the disciples noticed. Whenever Jesus reached a crisis point, when He experienced need, when He was tired, His consistent response was to pray. Wanting to be nourished by prayer the same way Jesus was, they asked him to teach them, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

You see prayer is a learned behavior. We aren’t born experts in prayer and we don’t master prayer. Prayer doesn’t happen automatically, it requires us to be purposeful in the practice of this discipline. It means picking a time and choosing a place that works best for you to pray. Then prepare yourself in a way that allows you to give your attention to God. We live in a world full of distraction and chaos that takes our attention away from God during times of prayer. When this happens to me, I whisper, “Jesus, show me your face.” This allows me to be fully present and focused on Him, because it is through prayer that the human heart is knitted with the heart of God.

Prayer changes things and we all know people in our lives who are going through circumstances that need to be changed. This week intercede on another person’s behalf. When we do that, God is at work in ways we do not understand. When you intercede for another, you don’t know how that person may be strengthened; you don’t realize how they might be encouraged or if healing comes to their body because you prayed for them. Prayer changes things and where there is prayer there is love. So pray!

“For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37

~ Tim Hall
https://twitter.com/1timothy12
(I encourage feedback, questions & comments – email me at 1timothy46@gmail.com)

The Discipline of Parenthood

One of my favorite words spoken from a parent to child happens at the baptism of Jesus. Scripture tells us that when Jesus came up from the water “a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:11). Think about it, are there any greater words that a father can speak to a son, or a parent can speak to child?

The truth is that I typically do a good job with speaking positive and kind and gentle and loving words into the lives of my two children. In fact, I call my son Captain Awesome for no other reason than the fact that he is Captain Awesome. And my daughter, I call Sunshine because she brightens up every day. Some of you might say, “Yep that is being a good parent. That’s what a good parent does.” Now, if there is an aspect of parenting that most would call good and be in the category of “do”, then there must be a part of parenting that would be in the “don’t” category.

Now, as hard as I always try to do what is best for my children, there are times that I come up short of being the father that God has called me to be. In other words, there a times when my parenting falls in the “parenting don’t” category. Maybe it’s the pressures of life that distract me, or the fact that I just had to repeat myself for the tenth time for toys to be picked up. Perhaps, I’m not getting enough sleep or spending enough time with my children. Maybe I care too much what others think of me as a parent or my expectations of my children are too high. Maybe it is the desire to be in control or maybe, just maybe, I have not been spending the time with God that I need to.

Whatever the case, there are moments when irritability (a parenting don’t) is my response as a parent instead of kindness or positivity or grace. When this happens, I am quick to apologize for my behavior. This often goes like, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t very patient.” To which my son responds, “Daddy, you should show me more grace.”

It is in these moments, when I have responded with irritability that I have to remind myself that as a father I must submit myself to Christ and allow Him to turn my heart toward my children and respond to them with the words, “you are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased!”

This week, list some of the attributes of our Heavenly Father as described in the Bible. Which of these do you need to emulate in your own life as a parent?

~ Tim Hall
https://twitter.com/1timothy12
(I encourage feedback, questions & comments – email me at 1timothy46@gmail.com)

The Practice of Joy

“Spiritual Discipline” – for many this term carries with it associations of legalism or attempting to earn God’s favor. We also think that a spiritual discipline is something that should be hard for us to do or requires a great sacrifice for us and is not something to be enjoyed. But as noted last week, Richard Foster writes in his book Celebration of Discipline that “joy is the keynote of all the disciplines.” Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for us. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11) and Nehemiah said, “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

You see, as a follower of Christ, joy is important to our lives and we are invited to rejoice in every moment of our lives because each of those moments is a gift. But, I often wonder if I am joy-impaired. Have you ever thought that? I am a reserved person and seldom express myself in joyous ways. However, just because I don’t jump up and down or laugh out loud, does not mean that I am joy-impaired. This also doesn’t mean that I can’t practice the discipline of joy in my life, because celebrating God’s joy means reflecting on the wonderful God who has given me so many magnificent gifts. Gifts like a wonderful wife and amazing children and coffee.

When we celebrate the gifts in our life, we exercise our ability to see the goodness of God in the simplest gifts He provides. We take delight today in something we wouldn’t have even noticed yesterday and this celebration leads to increased joy in our lives. For many of us, increased joy is a really good thing.

So, how do you begin the practice of joy as a discipline? The first step is to realize that joy is a learned skill and you must take responsibility for it. Your friends, your parents, your spouse, your children, none of these things are responsible for your joy. You are! So fight for joy in your life. Don’t wait for conditions to change in your life to start experiencing joy.

The psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Notice he doesn’t write yesterday or tomorrow, but “this day”. This day with all the struggles you endure. This day with all the pressures you face. This day with all its sadness. This day that is filled with anxiety. This day that you are burdened with temptations. This day… today is the day you are to be filled with joy and celebrate all that God has done for you. Let the celebration begin.

~ Tim Hall
https://twitter.com/1timothy12
(I encourage feedback, questions & comments – email me at 1timothy46@gmail.com)