MEMORY CHECK #3
We are people of the WAY. If you look at the word as an acronym, it even asks the question: Who Are You. That’s a very pertinent question for each of us. Especially in the world we live in where there are so many ideas, ideologies, philosophies, belief systems and what not floating around out there. There are so many different ways that people choose to live, that we have to know Who We Are. And according to Scripture, we are a people of the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I’ve said it before and I firmly believe that as people of the Way, as Paul called us, we are the abnormal people. There is nothing normal about the Way we live and what we believe. Because of what Christ has done in our lives or revealed in our hearts, we have chosen to live as Jesus lived. We have chosen to live His Way.
Let’s look at one of the things Jesus taught concerning His Way of life. John 15:1-9 (NRSV)
 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us He is the vine and we are the branches. If we’re the branches then we have to stay connected to the vine so that we can be nourished and bear fruit.
I went to the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon this past week and the speaker said, in talking about leadership and planning said something very Biblical and very profound. He said: Stay Green. When you’re green you’re growing; when you’re ripe, you rot.”
I think that’s implied in what Jesus says when he compares us to the branches of the vine. That’s why He tells us to abide in Him. William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible wrote: “The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We cannot do that unless we deliberately take steps to do it. To take but one example–to pray in the morning, if it be for only a few moments, is to have an antiseptic for the whole day; for we cannot come out of the presence of Christ to touch the evil things.”(1)
As Methodists and as People of the Way, we have certain or beliefs about how to abide in Christ so we can keep that constant contact with God. We’re called to develop a 3D faith, Devoted, Disciplined and Dedicated. Each of these helps us Remember Who We Are in the midst of the noise and distractions of the world.
We’re called to be Devoted to God. This is actually the root word of the term Devotions as well as the origin. Our Devotional times are means and ways we devote ourselves to staying connected.
Mary Lou Redding, the former editorial director of the Upper Room daily devotional, put together a little “How To” guide for daily devotions. I’ve printed them for you to take home today so you won’t forget. Basically she gives 5 steps:
1. Begin by quieting yourself, much like we begin our service with a breath prayer.
2. Read a short passage of Scripture and a devotional guide
3. At the end of your reading, sit quietly and silently reflect ON you’ve read. Let the Holy Spirit percolate and rummage around in your soul.
4. Think about how what you`ve read connects with your life. I’m amazed at how God always seems to use something in one of my devotionals to intersect my life for that day.
5. At the end, say a prayer. Ask God to use what you’ve read. And if you don’t know how to pray or what to say; use the one I shared couple weeks ago. “Lord, I don’t know what the day holds but I know who holds the day, so guard my mind, my strength, my heart, my soul, and guide my every way.”
That’s the simple pattern. And if you notice, that’s sort of our pattern for worship, too. As we worship we are renewing our connection to God and reaffirming our Devotion not only to the ideals and theology of Christ but to Christ Jesus himself.
A. We’re called to be Disciplined in our Spiritual Life. We don’t really like that word, Discipline because it sort of reminds us of punishment. But Discipline is needed in everything we do. And we practice a form of Discipline in everything that we do. We Discipline ourselves to get up at a certain time so we have plenty of time to get the kids off to school and ourselves off to work. We know how many times we can hit the snooze button before we’re late. We know that if we hit it twice we’ll be rushed but we’ll still make it but if we hit it three times, we’ll be late.
We need the same sort of Discipline in our Spiritual Lives, the setting aside the time and the place and the energy to Abide in Christ. It takes Self Discipline, just like a diet or a workout routine or anything else in life that matters or makes a difference.
John Wesley said, “God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of His grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.”
Jesus said the very same thing when he said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
The word Disciple and Discipline are brother and sister because you can’t be one without practicing the other.
B. I have another handout for you to pick up. On the front page you will find a Bibliography of books that are recommended by the Upper Room and a couple I’ve added. Some of these are available on your Kindle or Nook. There are a number of them which I’ve used off and on over the years.
One of them that I found very helpful is John Baillie’s Diary of Private Prayer. The prayers are always thought provoking and soul nourishing. And sometimes they really rattle my spirit. I was introduced to it in seminary and have used it almost every day since. You can get it on your Kindle.
Another, which may I used for years is A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Bishop Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck. There are two other versions A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People and A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Each of them is excellent.
C. But you’re not limited to the kindle or to paper there are plenty of ways to use your smartphone or tablet computer. On the back side of second the handout, the side titled, “There’s An App For That”, you’ll find a list of some very helpful apps.
You can either subscribe to a magazine format of the Upper Room on your iPhone or Android or you can download the free Upper Room app. The main difference is the free version only shows today and that last few weeks, the magazine lets you look ahead. Or you can access the Upper Room Devotional from the Official Mobile App of the United Methodist Church which also has a number of other features, like find a church and UM news.
If you search the app stores for devotional you’ll find nearly every author you’ve ever read. Our Daily Bread is available as is Max Lucado’s Life Lessons.
One I use a lot especially when I’m travelling is 3 Minute Retreat by Loyola Press.
D. But it’s not just Devotional life, now you can do serious Bible Study on your smartphone. Two of the best Bible Programs, in my opinion, are Olive Tree Bible+ and Logos Bible! Most of what they offer for the desktop counter parts is available on your phone.
But there are others as well. Mantis Bible Software, Bible Glo and of course simple Kindle versions.
E. That only leaves the Discipline of Prayer and there’s an app for that too. The one I use is by Laridian Software titled Prayer Partner. You can classify types of prayer, times to pray, make notes about the prayer, even a way to flag it when it’s been answered. It also has a feature to let you know whether you have prayed for that person or not. Prayer Partner is $2.
There’s another one titled Pray! Which is free. It doesn’t do as much but it looks like it does enough.
The main thing is to have a prayer list. Even if you just use of stenopad or a yellow tablet or one of those moleskin pocket booklets or a spiral pocket notepad. I believe a Prayer list is almost sacramental because it carries the hurts, joys and needs of our family and friends. We hold a part of the treasure of who they are in our hands.
And don’t forget the Hand Prayer I’ve taught. Remember:
Thumb: those closest to you.
Forefinger: Teachers, preachers, missionaries, professors, those who point the way.
Middle Finger: Longest, remember our leaders. Especially elected officials.
Ring Finger: Weakest finger, so pray for the weak ones, the nobodies, the outcasts, those in pain.
Little Finger: Smallest. It represents you.
I hope all that has helped a little to see how you can be more Disciplined in your Spiritual life.
As Methodists we are Devoted, Disciplined and we’re also Dedicated to serving and loving God. John Wesley said, “I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!”
Everything that Wesley did and urged his followers to do was to spread Scriptural Holiness throughout the land. He believed that life itself could be a prayer. He wrote: “All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.”
What would that look like in your life? What if you considered everything you do as a prayer lifted to God? Would it change how you treat people? How you treat your family or your cranky neighbor? Would it change how you do your job or what choices you make in books you read, movies or TV shows you watch? Would it change the thoughts that pop into your head when the light turns green and the person behind you honks their horn before you can even get your foot on the accelerator?
How would it change the way you help your kids with their homework? What difference would it make to the teacher or store clerk or co-worker you had a disagreement with? How would it change how you speak to your spouse? Both in times of overwhelming stress or in times of extreme love? What would it look like?
If your life were lived as a prayer how would it effect how you spend your money? Would it change how often you worship and participate in Sunday School or small group. Would it change how you use your time? I’m just asking. What if your life were a prayer being lifted to God every day?
Wesley’s answer is one we’ve heard over and over but is worth repeating because I believe he thought of his life as a prayer lived to glorify God and that we should do the same.. He said: “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”
You can’t be more Dedicated than that. And that is what we’re called to be and to remember. That’s how we’re called to live by a 3D faith; one that is Devoted, Disciplined and Dedicated to becoming more and more like Christ. Or as Wesley would put it, living a life which is being shaped, molded and perfected into the image of Christ by the Sanctifying Grace of God.
Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” Jesus wants us to be fruit bearers. A non-fruit-bearing tree is decorative and a thing of beauty, unless you’re hungry. And then its beauty fades quickly. God doesn’t want beautiful Christians who bear no fruit. God wants Disciples who are fruit bearers. Or to paraphrase what Mike said at Chamber, God wants green Christians and not ripe Christians, because Green Christians are growing but ripe Christians are on the verge of rotting, if they haven’t already started to rot. And we all know how rotten, rotting Christians can get.
If we are to stay connected with Christ, if we are to stay alive in Christ or Green in Christ, then as people of the Way, we must live a 3D faith; one which is Devoted, Disciplined and Dedicated to loving and serving God in every way possible. Our challenge is to let Christ mold us and shape us into becoming like Him. Our challenge is to avail ourselves of every avenue we can find to walk a closer walk with Christ every day.
I hope the tools I’ve given you today help.
And to that end, I’d like us to close by joining together in John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Remember Who You Are through this prayer.
“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 15”.
Remember Who You Are
This is what God says about You! (From the Video)
“I will not forget you.
“I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands”
“I will take you, . . . and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you”
“I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people”
1 Peter 2:9
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people”
1 Peter 2:10
“We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works”
“I do not call you servants any longer, but I have called you friends”
“The Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God”
“If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”
“God in Christ has forgiven you”
“by grace you are saved”
“People of the WAY”
Hand Out #1
Prayer, Devotion and Bible Study Bibliography
Books and other resources produced by The Upper Room (www.upperroom.org/bookstore) related to the prayer practice featured. Additional resources will be included at the “Teach Us to Pray” website, www.umc.org/pray.
Learning to Pray – Part 1: Baby Steps, online course led by the Rev. Tom Albin, Jan. 14-Feb. 15, www.upperroom.org/ministry-areas/e-learning.
The Guide to Prayer series offers a pattern for daily prayer and Scripture reading along with themed “Readings for Reflection” and outlines for personal retreats.
- A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, Bishop Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck.
- A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, Job and Shawchuck.
- A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Job and Shawchuck
Children and Prayer: A Shared Pilgrimage, Betty Shannon Cloyd:
Help for parents who want to develop a life of prayer and spiritual awareness in their homes.
Creating a Life with God, Daniel Wolpert.
Dimensions of Prayer: Cultivating a Relationship with God, Douglas V. Steere.
Lord Teach Us to Pray: A Study of Personal Prayer, Margie Burger.
Prayers for Life’s Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments,
Compiled and edited by Mary Lou Redding: Prayers written by staff members of The Upper Room, the General Board of Discipleship and Africa Upper Room. Kindle Format
Praying in the Messiness of Life: 7 Ways to Renew Your Relationship with God, Linda Douty:
Incorporate prayer in your daily life as it is, rather than trying to find more time to pray. Kindle Format
Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Steve Harper:
Confront your problems with prayer.
Teach Me to Pray, W. E. Sangster.
The Upper Room Disciplines 2013
A Book of Daily Devotions. New in 2013: The Disciplines Discussion Guide. Each week includes a Scripture Overview plus questions or thoughts for reflection. Appendices include “A Guide to Daily Prayer” and “The Role of the Small-Group Leader.” Kindle Format
A Pocket Guide to Prayer, Deluxe Edition
Steve Harper brings the ancient tradition of praying at certain times throughout the day into an easy-to-use format for today’s Christians. This portable prayer book provides a pattern for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime prayers that you can adapt as needed. Kindle Format
A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie
A book of thought provoking and soul nourishing, morning and evening prayers to pray for every day of the month. Kindle Format
There’s An App for That
OLIVE TREE: BIBLE+
Follow The Link For Handout #2
by Mary Lou Redding