resources

The Evangelical Covenant Church and the Bible

The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), the denomination to which Malmo belongs, every so often publishes “teaching documents” for its churches to “provide context and clarity for Covenant churches on critical issues of concern in matters of faith, doctrine and conduct.” These resource papers are approved by the ECC Annual Meeting, our highest denominational authority, and are a helpful guide to understand how the ECC generally approaches scripture.

The Evangelical Covenant Church believes that the “the Holy Scripture, the Old and New Testament, is the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.” The paper, “The Evangelical Covenant Church and the Bible,” gives an overview of how the ECC reads scripture (though it does not provide instruction as such for interpretation). This approach can be summed up in five ways of living out scripture and three commitments for doing that: “At our best we as Covenant people read the Bible faithfully, communally, rigorously, charitably, and holistically, with commitments to grace, transformation, and mission.”

Read the whole document to see how we approach the Bible, the document at the centre of our faith and practice as a Covenant church. It may help you as you read scripture on your own, too!

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Helpful Bible reading tips (podcast episode)

Scot McKnight’s* Kingdom Roots podcast recently posted an episode that presented his talk called “What I Wish Every Christian Would Do When Reading the Bible” (episode 125, episode links below**). It’s about 40 minutes long and has lots of wise and helpful suggestions for us as we read the Bible.

As a teaser, here are the main points he makes:

  1. The Bible is a gift from God.
  2. Get out of the way.
  3. Develop bigger ears.
  4. Locate what you’re reading in the bigger story.
  5. Read the Bible with others.
  6. Learn your church history.
  7. Take advantage of seminaries, Christian colleges, conferences, and other educational resources for reading the Bible.
  8. Avoid taking verses out of their context (paragraph, book, culture, etc).
  9. Don’t be afraid to be mistaken.
  10. When you read the Bible don’t expect too much.
  11. Thank God for speaking in the Bible.

Give it a listen!

*Scot McKnight was for 18 years Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, the Evangelical Covenant’s Church school in Chicago. He now teaches New Testament at Northern Seminary.

**SoundCloud stream, iTunes, and available on other podcast/streaming services as well)

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Tractor Spirituality: connecting with God in the cab and in the kitchen.

The season has begun where a number of you will be spending a good many hours in seeders and trucks. Some of you always do that, no matter what the season. Below are some things you can do to connect with God and your faith in your tractor/truck as the seeding season unfolds. This could also be helpful to those of you who spend much of your time at home or even working a 9-5 job.

  • Begin your work day by committing it to God and inviting his help and presence through your day. End your work day reflecting on when you were aware of God and when you weren’t.
  • Start your day with a 12 minute scripture-based guided prayer: Pray as You Go (there’s also an app for that! // Android // iTunes //). Or do it anytime during the day.
  • Work/drive in silence for 20 minutes.
    • Offer what comes to mind to God.
    • Repeat the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
    • Take time to reflect on your life with God—confess, receive forgiveness, listen for God’s call for what’s next.
  • Pray the Lord’s prayer slowly, reflectively throughout the day. Pause after each phrase and ponder/meditate.
  • Pray for
    • people in your contacts
    • other farmers or coworkers
    • the day’s prayer items from the bulletin
    • anyone who comes to mind
  • Listen to a Christian podcast. I recommend Unbelievable? (available on most podcasting apps and Spotify), but there are many good Christian podcasts out there.
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Women in Church Leadership (helpful resource)

The Evangelical Covenant Church, the denomination Malmo belongs to, has been ordaining women (i.e., allowing them to be lead pastors) since the 1970s.

If you’re wondering why we believe that women can serve in all levels of leadership (perhaps you are new to our church) this short podcast episode is a helpful starting point to understanding why we believe what we do.

It doesn’t cover all the potentially relevant passages, but it’s a great starting point.

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Palms up, palms down prayer

During worship last Sunday, the children and the rest of the congregation was led through the “palms up, palms down” prayer. This is a prayer that anyone can do at any time.

Prayer is simply conversation with God—listening to and speaking with him. Sometimes it’s helpful to use our bodies when we pray to help us focus. This is not unusual: people lift their hands during worship, fold their hands and close their eyes during prayer, or perhaps kneel or lie prostrate when praying.

Palms up, palms down prayer is a way to help us focus on God by letting go of the things that distract us, worry us, frustrate us, anger us, and so on, and giving them to God, and to give us a posture to receive what God has for us. This is a prayer that seeks God, nothing more, nothing less. It is about being in his presence and trusting him.

It’s very simple—even a child can do it, as we saw on Sunday. Here’s how you can begin*:

  • Sit comfortably and take a deep breath.
  • Place your hands palms down on your legs.
  • Imagine letting whatever is distracting (worrying, frustrating, angering, etc.) you drop out of your hands. You could even give whatever it is to Jesus. Watch them drop out of your hands.
  • When you have let go of as much as you can, turn your palms up in a posture of receiving. Tell God that you want to receive whatever he has for you today. Remain in silence with God.
  • When your mind starts wandering, turn your hands palms down and let those distracting thoughts drop away.
  • When you are ready, turn your palms up again to receive in silence.
  • Do this as many times as you need to release the things that burden you and be with God.

*Source: Diana Shiflett, Spiritual Practices in Community: Drawing Groups into the Heart of God (IVP Books, 2018)

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Inviting God into your day (simple morning prayer)

It’s the time of year where many of us have committed to improving something in our lives or to develop better habits. Some of those commitments are large and some of them have been broken already! Here’s a suggestion for a simple habit to develop: first thing in the morning, before you do or say anything else, invite God into your day. This can be a short prayer you say as you sit on the edge of your bed, bedhead, half-open eyes and all (you don’t need to look or smell good to pray!)

Here are some suggestions for prayer. You can use individual ones or a combination (you may even want to start all of them with a “Good morning, Lord”):

  • “Lord, please walk with me through this day.”
  • “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you today.”
  • “May your will be done today.”
  • “Lord, I need your help to get through this day.”

You can, of course, come up with your own. Or you may want to pray something longer, such as The Lord’s Prayer or what some call the Jesus Creed.

This way you start your day in conversation with The One who gave you this day and it will serve as a reminder throughout your day of The One who is with you.

This is a simple practice you can teach to your children as well.

You might also want to end your day with a prayer reflecting on how God has answered or responded to your morning prayer. (In another post, I’ll tell you about the Prayer of Examen, which is one way you can reflect on your day with Jesus.)

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Praying with scripture (resource for individuals and families)

There is a whole lot of devotional material available. You may have your own preference for that stuff or maybe you’re overwhelmed by all the options and don’t know where to begin. I’d like to highlight one unique resource that I have found very helpful in my walk with God. It’s called Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year.

This book has one entry for every day of the year, beginning with Advent. Each day includes a couple of short scripture readings for reflection and prayer, and/or conversation with your spouse or children, some suggestions for “free prayer”, and a closing prayer and benediction. It’s simple and reflective.

There are two things I especially like about this resource:

  1. It puts very little in between you, God, and his word to us. It’s just you, scripture, and a few prayer suggestions.
  2. It’s simple: everything you need for a given day’s prayer and reflection can be found and read on that day’s entry. There’s no flipping between pages or reaching for your Bible to find the passages for the day.

This is a resource that could work for individuals or families and would serve this purpose for many years. Malmo gives this book to its high school grads as a gift to encourage ongoing conversation with God. It might be too late for you to acquire this before Advent begins, but you can start any time. Consider getting it for yourself or your family for Christmas!**

Here are a couple of places you can find it: Wisemen’s Way // Chapters/Indigo // Amazon.ca.

(Compact edition [smaller size, otherwise identical]: Wisemen’s Way // Amazon.ca)

**Pastor Marc has a copy of his own. You’re welcome to have a look at it. Just ask!

 

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