Crossfit, Community, and the Church | Tim Sweetman

Recently I joined a CrossFit gym. I’m sure you’ve probably seen those crazy people running around in garage-looking gyms throwing around barbells and rowing like mad men. I’m one of them now.

Beyond the intense throbbing my body has felt in the post workout, I’ve been struck by something quite unexpected after joining these crazy people.

I’ve seen real, deep, community at CrossFit gyms.

Now before you strike me down, you have to understand that it’s all there. The welcome at the door. The encouragement to grow and develop yourself. The deep care and concern for one another. Friends inviting other friends into their homes and lives. The sharing of the message of CrossFit with the world.

Others have noticed, too, including Harvard Divinity School. In a recent panel discussion with a co-founder of the fitness phenomenon, they couldn’t help compare CrossFit’s community to that of the local church.

In a discussion at Harvard Divinity School on Thursday night, Greg Glassman, the co-founder of CrossFit, spoke of the intangible, mental, and social benefits that he says his fitness company delivers to customers.

Moderators at Thursday’s event likened the communal environment at CrossFit to the type of community that Americans have historically received from church. They asked Glassman to address the similarities between his fitness company and these religious communities.

According to Glassman, people often begin CrossFit simply to join a group that will motivate them to work out; ultimately, many find something much deeper and transformative.

The fitness is the glue that holds everyone together,” Glassman said, but there’s something even more cohesive, even a stronger glue than the fitness.”

I was shaken by both this description and my own personal experience.

What really makes the community at my local church any different from the community at my local gym? Or for that matter how does the community in my local church contrast differ from the local high school football team, the LGBT community, or my extended family? Many groups offer deep community in the world. 

So what makes supernatural community?

Thankfully we have the wise words of the Apostle Paul to remind us exactly what supernatural community looks like.

“For through [Christ]we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:18-19).

We are people coming together that have absolutely nothing in common.  In fact, the people of God ought to be strangers and enemies — but God has brought us together through the one thing we have in common – Christ. 

The local church is a community that is known for a diversity of people from all parts of society who otherwise would never come together — black and white, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor. And even more than that, the gospel is a stronger glue than sharing similar passions. The cross killed the hostility that once separated us and has brought us together to go deep into the richness of the gospel (Ephesians 2:15).

Jamie Dunlop reminds us in his excellent book The Compelling Community that “Supernatural depth and breadth of community make the glory of an invisible God to be visible…this is the ultimate purpose statement for community in churches today.”

That supernatural community is a direct result of understanding the gospel–our sin and God’s grace given us through the cross. That simple truth causes a deep love and affection between fellow sinners who otherwise might have little in common.

Unfortunately, too many local churches offer CrossFit-level community.This community is not bad, but it’s not a gospel community. It’s not a supernatural community.

Our aspiration is for a community that shows the power of God and the power of the gospel.

Here a few ways to continue the walk towards clear community:

  1. Ask if your community is one that gathers because of the gospel or because of shared interests.
  2. Read The Compelling Community by Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever.
  3. Check out “How to Get Real, Honest Community,” an article on The Gospel Coalition’s website.
  4. Pray that God would allow his people to understand more deeply what true, supernatural community is and that they would not lose sight of the truth of the gospel as the core of real community.

Tim Sweetman (’12) is an entrepreneur by day and a writer by night. He graduated with a degree in Biblical Counseling from Boyce College and resides in the Washington, D.C. metro with his wife Emily (’12) and his daughters, Grace and Adelyn.

The Word That Guides | Amber Komatsu

I love reading biographies. There is something about reading another person’s story that often causes you to understand your own thinking in a way that you have never perceived before. Last summer I read an autobiography of a man who was struggling with a particular moral decision. It was a gripping book and I found myself wanting to cry as I read parts of his story. There was one part in particular that sent shivers down my spine. It was when the author decided to go against Scripture, and go with his ‘feelings’ concerning the moral decision he was facing. He said he just had such a peace about it and ‘knew’ that God must have given him that peace. In the book, his moral decision led him into further sin and will eventually lead to death if he does not repent. I was sobered, because if I am very honest with myself, I have seen the same temptation to follow my own feelings in determining right and wrong.

Whenever something other than God’s Word becomes the foundation upon which we build reality, we depart from reality. This kind of moral confusion is the air that our culture breathes. Even Christians are in danger of being swayed by it. But the church must rely on the solid ground of the Word of God.

The Heart that Deceives

Most who are alive today have heard the mantras, ‘follow your heart’; ‘let the desires of your heart lead you’; ‘look to yourself for wisdom and believe in yourself’. These mantras all tell us that what feels right is right. This is how the world determines morality. The world believes that meaning and right action are found within a person’s own heart. If you dig deep enough, you’re going to find it. But Jeremiah 17:9 shows us that the exact opposite is true. It says that the heart is deceitful above all things. It is not to be trusted.

The Word that Guides

If mankind is filled with corruption and confusion, we must look outside of ourselves to find truth. We must look to God’s personal communication to mankind, the Holy Scriptures. Christians must be men and women of the Word. We must drink deeply of the commands and statutes of our God as he has clearly revealed them to us in Scripture. God and his commands are where true wisdom and guidance for life is found. Psalm 119 lays this out in a compelling manner,

 

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By guarding it according to your word.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not wander from your commandments!

11  I have stored up your word in my heart,

that I might not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O Lord;

teach me your statutes!

13  With my lips I declare

all the rules of your mouth.

14  In the way of your testimonies I delight

as much as in all riches.

15  I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

16  I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

 

The psalmist gives a beautiful picture and helpful instruction on what it looks like to run after wisdom and obedience to God:

  • We must guard our ways according to God’s Word. Examine your life in accordance to Scripture. Do you seek to repent of sinful thinking and actions and instead obey his commands?
  • We must seek God with our whole heart so that we might not wander away from his commands. Wandering in disobedience is very difficult if you are busy keeping your eyes on Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
  • We must store up God’s Word in our hearts by reading and memorizing Scripture on a daily basis so that we might not sin but instead obey God’s commands and remember his faithfulness.
  • We must declare God’s rules and testimonies to other believers and to the whole world. It is fitting for us to speak truth to one another in the church, and also to all men and women so that they might repent and believe and also see Jesus as Lord.
  • We must delight in God’s Word so that we may never forget it. It is very hard to forget something if you are continually drawing joy and delight in it.
  • We must meditate on his precepts and fix our eyes on his ways. We do this by thinking deeply when we read Scripture and fighting against our wandering and easily distracted minds.

In matters of morality, believers need to be exercise discernment with precision. The way we do this is by not asking ‘how do I feel about this’ or ‘how does the world perceive these issues’ but ‘what does Scripture have to say about this’. Feelings and opinions sway and change with time, but the Word of our God stands forever (Isa 40:8).

Amber Komatsu graduated from Boyce College in 2013 with a B.S. in Christian Ministry and an emphasis in Biblical Counseling. She has worked as the Membership Services Coordinator at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) since 2013.  Amber and her husband Trevor reside in Louisville, KY and are members at Immanuel Baptist Church.

 

 

 

 

Fall | Dr. Dave DeKlavon

 

One of the things I enjoy most about living in the Louisville area is the change of seasons, and particularly the fall season that we are in now.

I was born in Pennsylvania, but my family moved to South Florida when I was 9 years old and I forgot a lot about the weather up north.  In South Florida, however, I knew first hand that we never experienced a “White Christmas.”  And, I used to kid that we experienced “Fall” on October 17th, when a palm frond would fall off the tree out front!

My wife Jan and I moved up to this area in August of the year I started as a student at Southern Seminary.  As the fall approached, it didn’t take long for images I had not thought about in years to come back.  Cooler weather, trees turning colors, leaves falling–I was in complete awe of this aspect of the beauty of God’s creation.

I remember thinking one day about these changes and relating them to the Christian life.  Three comparisons came to mind.

First, I remember thinking that the one factor that made the fall so beautiful was not the things that stayed the same but rather the things that changed.  All summer we had green leaves; now, they were changing into one beautiful color after another.  Our eyes were not drawn to the green leaves but rather to the leaves that had changed.  I realized that in the Christian life this is true as well.  What is it that lets people know God is at work in us?  It is not the things that stay the same but rather the things that change.  Now, many of us don’t like changes, and especially when those changes hurt.  Yet, as God uses the beauty of leaves that change color to indicate His power at work in nature, so also He uses the beauty of changed lives to indicate the same thing in us.

Second, all leaves don’t change color at the same time.  That is something I had forgotten.  One part of a tree will start to change and it is only over a period of time that the rest of the tree will follow.  This pattern reminds me of God’s promise to us that we will not experience more change at one time than we can bear.  Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t fix everything in our lives that needs changing all at once?  The changes occur gradually and in a way that we can handle.

And third, fall, of course, is followed by winter and then by the spring.  I often think of the starkness and barrenness of winter in terms of “death,” as the trees appear so lifeless.  But, the new life of spring reminds me of “resurrection,” as these trees seemingly come back to life again.  Obviously, nature cannot experience resurrection without death.  And neither can we.  Those places in our lives where the old habits and ways of life are dying will one day be resurrected in a way that will thrill us and bless others.

You know, all around us God gives us reminders of just how awesome and powerful He is.  Few times of the year illustrate this more than the fall.  As we enjoy the beauty of God’s nature in this season, let us remember also that what God is doing in nature He also wants to do in us.  He wants to produce life out of death and do it in such a way that people, through seeing what is happening in us, will be drawn to Him.

Dr. Dave DeKlavon is the Associate Dean for Academic Administration and Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Boyce College.

Grace for the Weak: An Encouragement for Saints to Persevere in Persevering

In an age where the cultural norm is to follow your heart and where feelings trump faith, how are Christians supposed to keep believing truth that we are so often tempted to disbelieve? Here are five ways that Christians can keep themselves staying the course on the narrow path which leads to eternal life:

1. Keep with repentance. This was the crux of Jesus’ message; he called all people to repent of their sins and to trust in him for eternal life (Matthew 3:7-12; Mark 1:14-15). If we want to be people who persevere, we must be people who repent of our sins and look to Jesus for grace to change. In continuing to repent of our sin, not only are we being obedient to God’s word, we are also reminded of our weakness and the greatness of Christ our Savior.

2. Cultivate faith. Hebrews 11 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” and “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6). Faith is a necessary component which we must possess in our lives, yet if it is something that we cannot touch or see, how should we cultivate it?

Believers grow in faith by spending time with the Lord alone in his Word and in prayer, as well as being with brothers and sisters at church. By reading God’s Word, we learn about who God is, we learn about ourselves, and we learn what He has done for us. The message of our sinfulness and Jesus’ complete salvation saturates the entire Bible and is something that we need to hear if we are going to keep with repentance and follow Jesus. Praying to God reminds us of our dependence upon Him and our need to bring our burdens and cares to Jesus who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Spending time with other saints provides necessary encouragement for our hearts when we feel weary, and it gives us the opportunity to see how the Lord has worked and is working out his salvation in the lives of others as well as in our own. All these things build up our faith.

3. Hold fast to God’s promises. God has perfectly fought for his children in the past and will continue to do the same until we are brought home to heaven. Do you believe this? Remember when God protected the Israelites from the Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea? Or when He sustained Noah’s family during the worldwide flood? Furthermore, He has promised to send the Holy Spirit and complete the works which began in us (John 14:16, Philippians 1:6). He has promised to justify, sanctify and glorify those whom he has called (Romans 8). God is faithful and cannot lie; His promises will come to pass.

4. Be known. Being known in a church does not simply mean being recognized by most of the congregation. Being known means that your brothers and sisters in Christ know the deep struggles and sins of your life. Is there a mature man or women (not just a peer) in your church who knows all the dirt about you? By opening yourself up to someone like this in your church, you will be putting sin into the light and not giving it an additional opportunity to fester and grow in the dark corners of your heart (James 5:16). This confession is painful, but it is worth it.

5. Serve and have friends in the church. By serving the church, you will get to know more people and build relationships. You can additionally do this by joining a small group. By making friends and serving the church you will build a community in which it should be challenging to leave. Close brothers and sisters in Christ will be absolutely necessary to your faith and perseverance when you are going through trials; they will act as a safety net for your spiritual life when you are tempted or when you fall into sin. Spiritual guidance from mentors and friends is not just for the spiritually young or weak but also for the mature and wise.

Overall, perseverance is hard work. But there is reward in pursing the Lord and living a grace-empowered life which honors him. God gives grace to his weary saints. Persevere in persevering; what you find at the end will not be disappointing.

 

Ethan Holsteen is a graduate of the biblical counseling program at Boyce College. He now works as a teacher for adults with Down Syndrome at the Down Syndrome of Louisville.

Reflections on God’s Wrath | Dr. Oren Martin

Do you want to grow in your understanding and appreciation of God’s bountiful love? Then meditate on his wrath. Now before you punch your roommate in the throat (metaphorically speaking), just think with me for a moment about this: God’s grace and love are not received apart from the exercise of his holy wrath. The storyline of Scripture shows us this.

Genesis begins with God’s “very good” creation, but that creation sought to become like God, and thus de-god God, and as a result God in his holiness had to judge and punish sin (and sinners). And judge sinners he did. All received God’s just judgment and wrath: Cain (Gen 4), wicked mankind in a great flood (Gen 6-9), rebellious Korah and his cohorts (Num 16), King Saul (1 Sam 15), King David (2 Sam 11), King Solomon (1 Kings 11), and idolatrous Israel (2 Kings 17, 25).

So much for love, huh? What about all that ‘God’s mercy and love’ talk? Well, God’s wrath against sin paved the way for his triumph in mercy (Gen 3:15). Indeed it’s through the loving act of the Father sending his beloved, willing Son—who joyfully went to the cross—to die in the place of sinners and bear the wrath that they (we!) deserve that God’s mercy and love (and wrath) are most fully displayed (Rom 3:21-26). In fact, it’s at the cross where God’s love and wrath meet. It’s only through God’s wrath poured out on the righteous One that the wicked ones can receive God’s love. Indeed the wrath of God enhances our appreciation of God’s bountiful love.

So how should we respond? First, worship God for his holy wrath displayed in judging our sin. Second, be wrathful as God is wrathful (kill your own sin!). Third, like Jesus, weep for those under God’s wrath and compassionately and courageously proclaim the forgiveness-bringing, life-giving gospel (Matt 23:37-39). Finally, long for the day when we will be made perfect in love and will never fear God’s wrath (1 John 4:18).

There are many today who minimize or detest the notion of God’s wrath, but not those who have been delivered from it (1 Thess 1:10). Praise God for his wrath. Praise God for his mercy.

 

Dr. Oren Martin serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at Boyce College and Southern Seminary. He serves as a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church and has recently published Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan (IVP, 2015) and “The Land Promise in Biblical and Systematic Theology” in Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2015).

The Refugees and the Gospel

 

On September 2 we awoke to the tragedy of the refugee crisis now spreading across Europe. Aylan Kurdi’s body was photographed and chronicled for the world to see: a three year old, lost in the midst of war and sectarian violence. He was a Syrian Kurd, and his family was caught in the violence of a war that has waged for almost four years with no end in sight, a war that was a result of Arab Spring when another young man, Mohammed Bouazizi, lit himself on fire because of repeated insults and an inability to forge a future with hope.

What kind of father takes his family, paying upward of $800 per person, across a treacherous stretch of water knowing that some of them might not make it? What kind of man, in his twenties with a college education, sets himself on fire to protest the injustices of a country he lives in? Men without hope!

We live in a world without hope. The refugee crisis in our world is a great example. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) recently published total numbers for 2014 and stated there were almost 60 million refugees and internally displaced people around the globe. Syria alone counts for some 6.5 million people who have been displaced. Three million of those have fled as refugees to other countries.

Baptist Global Response (BGR) is working hard to help resettle, feed, clothe and care for many of these refugees fleeing a life of war and death, but what can the rest of us do? Most of us live in much safer places where our stomachs are full and we sleep securely knowing that the loud noises we hear outside aren’t bombs or explosions but just harmless sounds. Yet for college students and others, there are many things that can be done to affect at least our part of the world and reach out to refugees in our cities.

First, we can pray! I know it seems like a simple thing but prayer is where we should start and where we should end. There is so much to do, but without the Father guiding, directing and helping us there really isn’t much we can do! When the Jews were sent out in exile, Jeremiah told them to “pray to the Lord on its (the city’s) behalf, for in its shalom you will find shalom” (Jer 29:7). As the world finds shalom, it finds hope because ultimately shalom with God is the only thing that can give us hope.

Second, we can get involved. Just to understand how the Lord works, as I was writing this I turned off my phone so I could better concentrate. When I looked at it again, I had received a call from Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM), a ministry here in Louisville. They want my church to help resettle a Syrian family coming to Louisville in two weeks. KRM is serving refugees right up the street from Boyce College, and students can get involved. Refugees need people who can help them resettle, tutor their children, and love them as image bearers of God. As believers we know that only God can provide lasting hope, so we should be on the front lines of these resettlement programs.

Third, we can financially support organizations like Baptist Global Response and by taking trips to work in refugee areas. This summer one of Boyce College’s Bevin Center trips will focus on refugees and our response to them. We are trusting the Lord to provide us with opportunities to intersect with those who are hurting and displaced.

Fourth, we can promote an attitude that says God loves the refugee! Refugees come from all over the world. They are not numbers. They are individuals, they are vulnerable, and they need hope! As believers we understand that hope only comes from the gospel and it only comes through Jesus Christ. We were once without hope, enemies of God, and dead in our sins, but one came to give us life, and He is our hope.

Aylan Kurdi’s death should remind us of those who are lost, hurting and without hope. God has graced us with amazing lives, work and hope. May we never forget the masses who when Jesus saw them, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Matt 9:36).

 

Dr. John Klaassen serves as Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Global Studies at Boyce College and works with the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His new book Engaging with Muslims is designed to help the average church member connect to the Muslims in their neighborhood. John is married to Shari and they have two boys.

 

5 Misconceptions I Had About Biblical Counseling | Seth Mick

  1. “It’s All About My Personality”

I thought I would be a good counselor because I am a people-person. Many do become counselors for that very reason—they just love people. That may be helpful, but by itself it isn’t help. People need direction, too. God gave me a caring personality so I could explain his truth in love, not just empathize (Eph. 4:15). I’m thankful for my personality, but I also know it’s not enough.

  1. “It’s All Method”

After four years in the counseling program, I hoped to have some kind of rigid template to rely on for ministry. I’ve come to realize, however, that counseling is not like formatting a paper. There’s no magic formula you can use for the rest of your life. Biblical counselors depend on the Holy Spirit to work in them just like every faithful preacher on Sunday morning. We can’t just go on autopilot, give three points and expect people to change. Instead, my professors have taught me to pray before, during and after every counseling session for wisdom. They may have written the books on counseling, but they know they are still desperate for the Holy Spirit’s work.

  1. “It’s About Being Cool”

When I first discovered biblical counseling, it felt like a new way to do ministry. It was trendy and innovative. Excuse my “I did Biblical Counseling before it was cool” bumper sticker. It turned out that I had misunderstood the movement.

What I needed to realize was that biblical counseling is not cool. Calling people to repentance is terrifying. Loving difficult people is exhausting. Walking through Scripture with people is perplexing. Yes, it’s true that the reward is worth every second. But I needed God’s Word to remind me that the ministry of reconciliation is like being sentenced to death – with life and joy only on the other side of self-sacrifice. (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

  1. “I Don’t Need Biblical Counseling, Too”

Sometimes I’ll make excuses about why my problems aren’t serious enough to talk to someone about. If you’re like me and think only serious problems warrant biblical counseling, think again. Paul encourages us to exhort one another every day so that we are not hardened by the deceitful power of sin (Heb. 3:13). This implies dealing with our daily problems and not becoming callous to little sins in our lives. Biblical counsel is not just for “strugglers”; it’s for all of us.

  1. “I Have This Figured Out”

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” It’s humbling to admit that sometimes I am the horse, and even though I found water in biblical counseling, I am often stubborn. I haven’t reached the goal; none of us in the movement have. We are all weak and human, in need of Jesus to save us from even our best efforts. Paul Tripp summarizes it when he says, we are “people in need of change helping people in need of change.”

God has used biblical counseling as an essential catalyst for my spiritual growth. Over the years at Boyce, I have too much good to share about how my degree has shaped my life and ministry. I pray that Boyce and the Biblical Counseling Movement will keep growing and be a help to people like me who need change.

 

Seth Mick is a senior at Boyce College. He is studying biblical counseling, and serves as a Resident Adviser.  He is a member at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, KY.

Ten Reasons To Go To A Christian College | Dr. Jim Scott Orrick

  1. Humans were created to know God. A human who does not know God is not fully human. Jesus is the only way to know God. Go to a college where the whole curriculum is designed to glorify Jesus and therefore make you fully human.
  2. God’s ultimate revelation is in his Son Jesus. Jesus is now on the throne of the universe. Go to a college that recognizes Jesus as the Lord of the world and encourages students to follow Jesus as Lord.
  3. God has given us a book that tells us how to know him and enjoy him forever: the Bible. Go to a college that values and teaches the Bible as the word of God, so you may understand what God has said and so that you may know God and enjoy him forever.
  4. All truth is God’s truth, and the whole earth is full of God’s glory. Go to a college that encourages students to see God’s glory everywhere it is revealed.
  5. The two ways that God consistently influences humans is through the literature of the Bible and through personal relationships. Go to a college where you may gladly come under the influence of the administration and faculty. After taking his class, there ought to be at least one professor about whom you say, “I want to be like him.”
  6. Go to a college where the professors love God, love their subjects, and love their students.
  7. Make good friends, for your friends will make you. Go to a college where you can make friends who will encourage you to pursue what is highest and most noble in life. He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools will come to ruin.
  8. College years are a time of life when students examine their belief system. Go to a college with an environment where this crucial examination may take place under the caring oversight of mature Christians.
  9. Most persons who go to college meet their mate at college. Go to a college where you are likely to meet an earnest Christian.
  10. The college from which you graduate is known as your alma mater. Alma Mater is Latin for soul mother. You may not choose the mother of your body, but you may choose the mother of your soul. Choose wisely.

Dr. Jim Scott Orrick  is the Professor of Literature and Culture at Boyce College. 

Learn more about attending Boyce College by registering for our Fall Preview Day.

The Place of Private Prayer | Joe Best

“So when do you pray?” This question took me back a bit. It seemed like a simple question to answer. I mean, I’m a pastor. Of course I pray. I pray all of the time. But when a church member asked me this question, I found myself dumbfounded. It was probably because I had not been praying much recently, or at least not praying in any meaningful sense. I had been praying quick prayers. “Lord, help me to preach.” “Lord, thank you for this food.” “Lord, protect my kids.” It is not that these were bad prayers. It was that these were my only prayers. When I was asked this simple question, I realized that no relationship, no marriage, no friendship could ever be healthy on these tweet-sized conversations.

When I was a student at Boyce College, prayer was a priority in my life. My roommate was a great example to me, often disappearing for hours to have private prayer. I read about prayer in books like J. I. Packer’s Praying. I studied about prayer under praying men, like Dr. Donald Whitney and Dr. Stuart Scott. When I was a student, prayer was a daily part of my life. Then I became a pastor, then a husband, and then a father. In the midst of life’s circumstances, prayer lost priority in my life. If you’re not careful, it can lose priority in your life as well. Maybe it already has.

So how do we get back to prayer being a priority?

There is no doubt that prayer was central to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. He prayed both publicly and privately. He prayed alone and He prayed with others. He woke up early and stayed up late (sometimes all night) in order to pray. He prayed on a mountainside and on a cross. Jesus’ disciples were firsthand eyewitnesses to His prayer life. They saw His passionate prayer, His affectionate tone in conversation with the Father, and His persistence. Naturally, they wanted to know how to pray in this way, so they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In Matthew 6:6, Jesus said to His disciples, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Notice that Jesus expects His disciples to pray. He says, “When you pray…” Prayer is expected from us, not as some religious activity to check off our list to earn the favor of our Father or because God is somehow desperate for conversation. Prayer is expected because it’s an essential part of our relationship with the Father. It is not just that we should pray (we all know we should pray)! It is that we must pray! We desperately need our Father. We are told to pray without ceasing because we will never cease to need the Father’s provision, pardon, and protection. Our Father also wants us to enjoy time with Him. He rewards time spent alone with Him. We pray basking in His presence, trusting in His promise, and being comforted knowing He answers prayer. Prayer will lose its priority in our lives when we stop seeing our desperate need for the Father.

Let’s stop and take an honest assessment together.  I’m in the same boat as you. You hear about prayer at church, in the classroom, and even from your friends. But how is your prayer time with the Father? How has your prayer time been this year? This week? This morning? Is it a priority in your life? No matter how you answered these questions, praise God that because of Jesus Christ the line of prayer is never closed or busy. God is always available and accessible to us.

Let’s make a humble plea to the Father. Let’s start by praying, “Father, thank you for prayer. Help us to pray.” Then let’s get started, because the best way to be disciplined in prayer is simply to pray. Two simple steps can get us back to praying. First, find the time, because there are so many things vying for your time (family, work, and school responsibilities). What are some things you can cut out of your schedule so you can make time to pray? Second, let’s fight the distractions. Find your secret place. Maybe it’s your car, at a park, or in the shower—wherever is an undistracted and quiet environment. Then turn off your phone (not just to silent) and have a prayer list or an open Bible to keep your focus. Let’s not lose the place of private prayer in our lives. Let’s pray.

 



Joe Best is the lead pastor at Cline Avenue Fellowship in Highland, Indiana.  He is an alumni of Boyce College.  He is married to Faith and they have two children.  You can follow him on Twitter at @jbest700.

 

The Hard Work of Sleep | Abigail Cavanaugh

Can you sense it? Life is getting busier. We feel it acutely in the transition from high school to college, and it just gets worse with each successive phase of life. Professors are exhorting you to academic excellence, everyone is talking about the importance of local church involvement, you are surrounded by opportunities for evangelism and new relationships, and you’re probably also working a job in the midst of all this. These are worthy pursuits, and faithfulness in this season of life means pursuing all of them with godliness and zeal. Add in the fact that we are living in a culture where success reigns supreme, and success is measured in productivity (money earned, books written, homework assignments submitted, godly children raised, to-do lists checked off) and it becomes so easy to forget one very important thing: sleep. Sleep is usually the first thing to get neglected or cut short when the schedule gets full, but it is crucial for both fruitfulness and faithfulness. Here are three brief reasons to make sure you get adequate sleep this semester.

  1. Practical

Valuing sleep is countercultural, but it benefits those around you as much as it does yourself. The most difficult roommates (from personal experience and observation) are the ones who are constantly irritable and on edge from being tired and stressed. Anger and impatience are caused by a sinful heart that desires comfort above the good of your neighbor – or roommate – but a good night’s sleep and a clear mind go a long way in the fight against sin.

Sleeping doesn’t just improve your mood, it fosters creativity and problem solving. Multi-tasking as we usually think of it is actually impossible; we are only able to consciously focus on one thing at a time. But your brain is constantly processing information and problems in the background, and according to Jeffrey Kluger’s article Shhh! Genius at Work, your brain doubles up on this action while you sleep, allowing you to make connections and solve problems that baffled you while you were awake (or, like Paul McCartney, write the melody to one of the most recorded songs in the history of pop music).

  1. Physical

Let’s be honest, though. Most of us skip sleep because the practical benefits seem to outweigh the practical expense. Snapping at your roommate and falling asleep in class don’t seem that important at 1 AM when you have a Greek quiz the next morning. But getting enough sleep every night is not just advice from your mom. Scientific research shows that productivity and health are crippled by sleep-deprivation. According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, people who sleep fewer than 7 hours a night are almost three times more likely to catch a cold than those who average 8 or more hours a night; research from Harvard Medical School indicates that sleep deprivation limits our ability to focus and access previously learned information. Essentially, it makes those late night study sessions less effective, and will make it difficult to remember all that information the next day when you’re actually taking the exam.

  1. Spiritual

Not only is sleep important for practical and physical purposes; sleep also cultivates humility and requires faith. God could have created us as vampires instead of men and women – never sleeping, and able to maintain constant, unceasing productivity and labor for the sake of his kingdom. But God created us as we are. Like food and water, we cannot survive without sleep. More than eating and drinking, though, sleeping requires the conscious humility of relinquishing control and admitting that we are not self-sufficient or independent. There is a limit to what we can accomplish, not only in life, but in a single 24 hour period. The Psalmist says “it is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to his beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2).

We fight against sleep when we fear what will happen when we allow ourselves to rest, and when we think our own work is too important to cease for a few hours; Psalm 127 calls this vanity. Sleep is our daily reminder that we are finite and that God is the only being in the universe who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Accepting the gift of sleep from the hand of God is a practical act of faith in the face of anxiety.

Worship God by working hard, with diligence and zeal. And then sleep, knowing that “he will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4).

 


 

Abigail Cavanaugh is a senior at Boyce College and plans to graduate this winter with a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies.  She currently works as the Administrative Assistant of the Boyce College Faculty, and is a member at 3rd Avenue Baptist Church.