Discipleship

Advent Devotional

Are you looking for a devotional book to use during the Advent season?  The Covenant Conference has published a booklet with daily reflections for Advent.  We have copies in print available for you on the Malmo Info Table in the foyer, or a digital copy is available below.

COV_Advent-2018-Devotional

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Is the Old Testament a complete mystery to you?

Sandra L. Richter, author of The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, has a diagnosis for many of us when it comes to the Old Testament: “dysfunctional closet syndrome.” Most of us have a drawer or closet in our homes where we throw all the random things we don’t know where to put and after a couple of years we’re not even sure what’s in there anymore. Similarly, many of us have grown up with a jumble of various Old Testament stories, stories which have been stuffed into our mental closets, and those closets can be quite a mess. These are stories which we can fairly easily recall but aren’t quite sure how or where they fit into the Old Testament or what they have to do with us.

The Epic of Eden is meant to help us put our Old Testament “closets” in order and to give helpful tools to keep them in order. She does this not by walking us through every detail in the Old Testament, but by highlighting and explaining the major themes, ideas, and turning points in the Old Testament by which we can grasp the larger whole. In this way, Richter help us to see how the Old Testament story flows, how it is intimately connected with the New Testament, and what it has to do with us as Christians.

The Bible is one of the primary ways in which we come to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15) and encounter Jesus Christ (John 5:39). Note that in both of these passages the scripture it’s referring to is the Old Testament! So reading, understanding, and meditating on scripture, including the Old Testament, is a significant part of being a disciple of Jesus. But that’s difficult to do if two-thirds of the Bible is a confusing mess! This accessible book will help put the pieces together for you and give you deeper understanding of the story of God’s love and faithfulness.

It’s not a difficult read and it’s not long (about 220 pages) and will help you understand the Bible better. There’s a copy available in the church library, or you can order it through Wisemen’s Way, Chapters/Indigo Books, or Amazon.

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Tractor Spirituality: Listen to a Podcast

Tractor Spirituality: spiritual practices for the seeder, the combine, the road, the shop, and the home.

Practice: listen to a podcast.

One thing you can do as part of your journey of discipleship is something you might call a practice of “guided listening.” That’s a fancy word for listening to a podcast, something you can do in the combine, on the road, in the shop, over lunch, or in bed. Podcasts can encourage, grow, and inspire your faith.

There’s a whole range of Christian podcasts out there to choose from—teaching, preaching, theology, current events, and many other topics—and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Below are two different kinds of podcasts that have been meaningful for myself and many other people. One engages the mind, the other engages the heart.

Unbelievable?: A weekly podcast featuring “apologetics, theology, debate, and dialogue” about various Christian topics. Be encouraged in your faith, hear different points of view, and be stretched in your thinking.
Website: www.premierchristianradio.com/unbelievable (also available through most podcasting apps).

Pray as You Go: a daily 12-minute guided prayer podcast featuring music, scripture reading, thought prompts and time for reflection and prayer. A great way to start your day!
Website: www.pray-as-you-go.org/ (also available as a standalone app and through podcasting apps).

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Why Do We Sing in Church?

Tomorrow morning we will gather at Malmo again, as we have been doing faithfully for 125 years or so, to worship together through fellowship, prayer, scripture reading…and singing.

Singing has been a part of Christian worship since the first Christians gathered. In fact, some parts of the Bible are widely believed to be taken from early Christian songs of worship. For example, Philippians 2:6-11 is often referred to as the “Christ Hymn”:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

These stanzas contain not only generic praise to God, but they tell a story—the salvation story, in fact: God becomes human, dies on the cross, is raised from the dead and made Lord and Messiah.

But why do we do this? Why do we sing together in church, especially when some people don’t like singing or think they don’t have a good voice?

I can think of several reasons, and none of them have anything to do with being able to sing or carry a tune: singing brings glory to God; it helps us remember the gospel story; it is modelled and encouraged (even commanded!) in scripture; it brings believers together and encourages them (have you ever been at a concert or worship event where thousands of people sing along together? There are few things more unifying and beautiful).

(There are more reasons, I’m sure. In fact, here are a couple of further explanations for Christians singing that I have come across that you might find helpful: “The Three Rs: Why Christians Sing” and “Seven Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters.”)

So as we gather tomorrow and in the weeks to come, consider: can I choose to participate in worship, including the singing, even if I (think I) don’t sing very well, even if I don’t fully understand why we do it?

Author and pastor Eugene Peterson wrote, “Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.” Often we talk about worship, and especially the singing part of worship, as an expression of our feelings for God. That may be true, but there are some people who do not express their feelings for God in that way, and there are some days when my feelings for God are not great.

In a much more important way, whatever our feelings may be on a given day, our singing praise, our singing the gospel, plays a significant role in transforming us bit by bit over time, through low seasons and high seasons, as individuals and a community, into the people of God…if only we will open ourselves up—both our mouths and our hearts!

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Helping our children embrace faith

This morning I came across an article in the latest edition of Faith Today (May/June 2017**) called“Help Your Kids Embrace the Faith.” It’s a short article reflecting on the experience and findings of a 22-year-old Christian in relation to the question, Why do some children remain faithful to God and why do others rebel? 

As parents we want more than anything for our children to commit themselves to Jesus and his kingdom. But we fear this not happening, so we take steps that in the end are more about making faith happen in our kids (a fearful response) through what in the end amounts to control. This is not, it seems, conducive to healthy, long-term faith in our children. Instead, the writer suggests that we best facilitate faith or make room for faith to grow (a loving approach) though authenticity, trust, and openness, among other things—helping faith rather than forcing faith. These appear to be the hallmarks of Christian parenting and families with children that have remained faithful.

Of course, these are not a guarantee. There are all kinds of factors at play in our children’s spiritual development that we are not aware of, but generally speaking the approach of gentleness and love seems to be more successful than a demanding and legalistic one. In any case, this short article will at the very least provoke some thought about the ways in which we instil faith in our children. In addition to hardcopies available at the church, you can find the article online here: “Help Your Kids Embrace the Faith.”

(The author, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, is releasing a book on the subject in October. It’s called Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow—and How Your Kids Can Too.)

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**if you are a regular attender you would have received a copy in your church mailbox and there are extra copies on the Malmo table)

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