Archive for December 4th, 2007

Making Time

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Acts 18:18-23 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

building blocks

Barely 20 shopping days left until Christmas! Have you accelerated yet? Actually, if you’re like most of us, you probably live in a state of constant acceleration.

Although the Apostle Paul lived almost two thousand years ago, he understood what it means to be always on the go. Today’s passage illustrates why. Paul’s life was as hectic and busy as any of ours are today. In our single short reading, Paul leaves Corinth and goes to Syria. From there, it’s off to Ephesus. Then Caesarea, then Jerusalem, then Antioch, then Galatia and Phrygia.

You get the idea. Paul’s life was like one of those TV commercials that run through a list of cities traveled to: Atlanta, Tampa, St. Louis, Madison, Denver . . .

Yet in the midst of all this crazy travel, verse 18 says, “At Cenchreae [a port near Corinth], Paul had his hair cut, for he was under a vow.”

Paul had been raised a Jew and carried many of those spiritual traditions with him into his new Christian faith. For ancient Jews, it was not uncommon to take a Nazarite vow, as described in Numbers 6:1-21. Whenever a Jewish male wanted to “separate himself unto the Lord” for a period of time, he would take this vow. During that period, he would vow to do a certain something — say, pray an hour a day — or not do something. During the period of the vow, the person would also forswear all wine or grape products. At the outset, the person would shave his head, then not cut his hair again until the period of the vow expired. The state of his hair would be a constant reminder of his vow.

It would have been so easy for Paul, with his incredibly demanding, chaotic travel schedule to excuse himself from personal spiritual practices. Instead, he had the good sense to build these kinds of things into the fabric of his life, even when everything was crazy. How about us?

At Jesus MCC, our Discipleship Program encourages each of us to be very intentional about creating a Personal Spiritual Growth Plan, in which we deliberately identify what personal spiritual practices are going to keep us focused on God. We teach six Building Blocks that can be used as resources in constructing a Personal Spiritual Growth Plan:

  • W is for being regular in worship.
  • Q is for regular quality quiet time with God (daily devotions, scripture reading, prayer, meditation).
  • T is for tithing or stair-stepping to tithing.
  • S is for serving on a Ministry Team at church or elsewhere.
  • O is for regular participation in a spiritually-focused small group. (We call them “Oasis Groups” at Jesus MCC.)
  • ? is for the Mystery Block, which represents other creative spiritual practices not covered by the foregoing Blocks. Paul’s vow is a great example of an additional creative practice.

Thought for the day: Do you have a Personal Spiritual Growth Plan? If so, how’s it going? If not, why sit down today and put one together?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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