Learning to Pray- Three P’s for a Richer Prayer Life

Praise Proclaim Promise

The longer I seek God, the more there is to find. It seems I get my head around one aspect of God’s character and another mystery appears. I feel the welcome of God’s tenderness and patience. Then I start discovering the rest of God’s protection and encouragement. Next, it’s learning to walk in God’s strength and guidance.

But what am I to do with God’s transcendent power and holiness and glory.
What am I to do with WOW?

“Wow means we are not dulled to wonder. … Wonder takes our breath away and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.”
– Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow

To wonder, to WOW, is to be alive. It’s having eyes to see and hearts to thrill and souls quickening to respond. It’s Isaiah overwhelmed by a vision of God seated on the heavenly throne. (Isaiah 6:1-8). It’s Moses encountering God in a burning bush, a presence so near and divine he must remove his shoes for even the ground is made holy. (Exodus 3:5-6)

WOW is also found in small things, like the tiny toes of a baby or the stillness of a deep blue night, or a belly laugh spewing mashed potatoes across the diner counter.

The “size” of the inspiration doesn’t matter. What matters is how it awakens us. How it connects us to being fully alive. How we pause to acknowledge the One who makes it possible.

Classically, acknowledging God in this way is called praise. It’s often accompanied by proclamation and naming/claiming God’s promises. (3 P’s)

Don’t let the fancy church words intimidate you. Your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be profound or formal. It’s as simple as finishing a sentence.

Finish this sentence. God, you are… 
This is how we praise God. We acknowledge who God is by naming God or an attribute of God. This can come from the scriptures or you can create it yourself.

God, you are the Light of the World. God, you are King of Kings. God, you are mighty. God, you are loving. God, you are near. 

Now finish this sentence. God, you have…
This is how we proclaim God’s power, goodness, and blessing. It’s a form of testimony, of bearing witness. It may be something you read in the scriptures, saw in the news, or heard from a friend. It may be something you witnessed firsthand.

God, you have heard the cry of the needy. God, you have made a way in the wilderness. God, you have brought me healing and hope.

Finish this last sentence. God, you will…
This is how we claim God’s promises. We’ve acknowledged who God is and what God has done. Now we acknowledge that God will continue to be God and will continue to work all things for good. The promises of the scriptures and the testimonies of others are for you and for all.

God, you will never leave me. God, you will hear the cries of my heart. God, you will walk with me all my days, you will raise me to new life now. God, you will lead me home to heaven. 

David Crowder in his book Praise Habit sums it up this way.
Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your hands and let them clap of His goodness. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to ground, trembling with life and awareness that we are found by a holy God.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, dear ones. In the comments, share how you’re finishing these sentences. May these simple sentences bring you fully alive now and all year long. – Lisa <><

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This is the third in a series of posts on Learning to Pray. Click here for the first post, God, Please Help. Click here for the second post, Thank You, God.

Learning to Pray- God, You Are © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Lift Up Your Voice- A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

microphone

Lift Up Your Voice
Readings and Reflection for the second week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Matthew 1:18-23
Isaiah 40:6-11
Luke 1:39-56

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • How are you intentionally sharing the good tidings of Christmas?
  • Make three invitations this week to worship or another Christmas gathering.

PRAYER:
Jesus, Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission
to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone
~ For Yours Alone, by Lisa Degrenia

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Lift Up Your Voice
A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit (Galatians 5)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 5 of 5: Pour Out Your Fruit
Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-14, 16-25 
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is the Fruit of the Spirit?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • 9 virtues (character traits) which the Holy Spirit grows in our lives
  • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)

They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.

God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.

This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.

It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.

Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?

  • Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
  • Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
  • Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
  • Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?

There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.

Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader. 

The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.

Galatians 5 is all about freedom.

Galatians 5:1
For freedom, Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
  • Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
  • Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
  • How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Galatians 5:13-14
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
  • Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
  • No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another

In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules
In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving

Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV
16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

  • a “sin list” of 15 actions
  • fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
  • idolatry, sorcery (playing God)
  • Enmities (hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy
    • Heart of peace sees people as people
    • heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
  • drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

tug of war

Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?

The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.

There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.

We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.

Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.

Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it. 

We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.

John 15:4
Jesus said, “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.”

We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.

An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.

The Holy Spirit is the seed.  The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.

Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony

speak witness good news

John 4:39
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a testimony. Yes, you!

Never dismiss or underestimate the power of sharing your encounters with the One True Living God. People remember and are moved to action by stories, especially true personal stories, far more often than by facts or debate.

Stories open us up and make deep connections. Our brains are literally different when someone is telling us a story. 

Your story, your witness, your testimony needs to be heard. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dramatic testimony. Your authentic voice and experience are enough. Like the little boy’s loaves and fishes, offer Jesus what you have and watch him make abundantly more than you could ask or imagine.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF TESTIMONIES:

Type #1: Conversion
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

Type #2: Character
What character traits of God and/or promises of God are most meaningful to you? Why?

Type #3: Calling
Where do you join Christ in serving others? Why this place/project? What have you seen God do in you, through you, or in spite of you? How does serving shape your faith?

Type #4: Circumstance
Tell of an important event which shaped and/or strengthened your faith.

Type #5: Commendation
For centuries, the faithful wrote their last will and testament, aka their testimony. What spiritual message would you like to leave your loved ones?

IMPORTANT POINTS FOR ANY TYPE OF TESTIMONY:

1. Pray first and often as you prepare. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, empower you, and draw the right situation to mind.

2. Focus on Jesus more than any other person or detail of your testimony. Point to Jesus again and again so it is clear who deserves the glory.

3. What scripture speaks to the main point of your testimony? Include it! If you’re having trouble finding one, ask for some help.

4. Speak as you usually speak. There’s no need for formality or fancy church words.

5. Be vulnerable, honest, humble, and real. 

6. Write your testimony down. Be prepared to write several drafts with some time in between each one. The writing process will help you organize and clarify your testimony. Take a breath, it won’t be graded. It doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect.

7. Testimonies include a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

  • The beginning focuses on what life was like before your transforming experience.
  • The middle focuses on your awakening. You awaken to your need of salvation, to God’s presence, to God’s action on your behalf, to God’s healing, to a need or injustice you are to address, etc. What brings you to the moment of decision and action?
  • The ending focuses on God’s action in and through you. Your life is now different, and hopefully the lives of others. How so? Consider including an invitation or call to action as part of your ending.

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Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Power (Acts 2)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 1 of 5: Pour Out Your Power
Scripture: Acts 2:1-33
Notes from a message offered Pentecost Sunday, 6/9/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

glass half empty full water

Is the glass half empty or half full?

  • The half-empty response may reveal a pessimist or realist
  • The half-full response may reveal an optimist
  • A response of “it’s both” reveals how can see and accept two opposing truths at the same time

When we only consider the glass and water, we limit our responses. Something more is present than the glass and the water. There’s air. The glass is always full because the air is always there.

When the Bible describes the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, it often uses the image of air. Ruah (Hebrew) and pneuma (Greek) are two of the Bible’s favorite words for Spirit, and they both mean wind and breath.

Holy Spirit’s work is often invisible but very real – like air, like wind, like breath.

Your glass is always full. In fact, your cup runneth over. (Psalm 23:5)

Romans 5:5
Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The story of Pentecost is the story of the Spirit being given to us. All over the world, our Christian brothers and sisters are wearing red, singing of the Spirit, and reading this story.

Pentecost baptism holy spirit by Estella Canziani

Pentecost, a watercolor by Estella Louisa M Canziani (1887-1964)

Acts 2:1-33
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

  • The time is 50 days after Easter. The place is Jerusalem.

2 And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

  • We are filled with the Holy Spirit to speak, to testify.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

  • The disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit with skills beyond their human training and experience.
  • This gift allows those gathered to hear the Gospel in their native language, their heart language.
  • Some witness the disciples’ speaking at Pentecost and they are filled with wonder and openness. Others are trying to explain it in human terms, proclaiming the disciples drunk.
  • The disciples are filled to overflowing. They’ve been praying for 9 days for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They are now filled to speak, filled with passion, filled with enthusiasm, filled with joy, filled with skills beyond their human training and experience.
  • The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos which means the God within.

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all fleshand your sons and your daughters shall prophesyand your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 

  • The disciples, prophesy and testify and preach and speak so others may call on the name of the Lord and be saved. Later in this story, 3,000 persons do just that.
  • Now Peter speaks the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ     

22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

  • It was impossible for death and sin and evil to hold Jesus because that power is not the power of Almighty God. The power of God is the greater power of salvation,  forgiveness and new life.
  • Peter points out another Old Testament prophesy fulfilled.

25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26, therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoicedmoreover, my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.

Over and over again, pour out, fill up, pour out, fill up… speak. What do we speak? We speak the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Ferris Bueller showerRev. Magrey DeVega quote on breaking the 4th wall from his blog post, This is Where You Come In

We might observe the rest of the Bible from a comfortable distance, but not so in Acts.

We don’t live in Old Testament times when God’s voice was clearly audible in burning bushes.

We don’t live in gospel times, seeing Jesus face to face as the Word made flesh.

When Pentecost happened, God was revealed in spirit and power, in subtlety and strength, just the way we experience God today. And at that precise moment, God the Divine Screenwriter turned toward the camera, peered through the Fourth Wall that separated us from the ancient story and said to us, “This is your story now.”

We are the living embodiment of the ongoing story of Pentecost. It is now a story about us, living into the unfolding work of God’s power.

Examples of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst:

  • Ruth’s testimony at her baptism
  • Pru leading a memorial service
  • 52 persons commissioned or ordained at Annual conference as pastors and ministry leaders who will serve across the state of Florida
  • Over 300 Fresh Expressions of the church across our state. People experimenting to reach new people, in new places, in new ways with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

DSC_0586 (2)

The story of Pentecost breaks the 4th wall and the air comes through, the breath comes through, the wind comes through. That story is our story.

How is the Holy Spirit making the movement of God real and alive in your life? Breath to speak and testify, to serve and love, filled with the Holy Spirit.

Prayer
Come Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Power
Holy Spirit your unseen work is very real
like air, like wind, like breath
Fill us. Fill us now.
Fill us so our cups runneth over
Fill us with strength and skills far beyond what is human
Fill us with courage
Fill us with boldness to witness and testify
to your victory over sin and death
Fill us with passion
Fill us with enthusiasm
Fill us with joy

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Power © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.