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How to Relate to God: Prayer

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Pastor Ed Allen is preaching a series going through the seven habits for building balanced spiritual lives.  Today he began focusing on the second habit in the "Up" direction:

Practice creative devotion.

This week, we're starting at the beginning, with Prayer, the language of our connection with God.

We looked at Matthew 6:5-15.

Jesus isn't pointing out the difference between irreligious people and religious people; he's pointing out the difference between religious people and Christians.

The Right Motivation for Prayer

Religious people approach God as merchants, in a business-like relationship with God, to earn social capital or benefits.

Christ-followers approach God as lovers.

The almost awkward language of lovers is all over Jesus' teachings.  It's not a negotiation or exchange.  Lovers like to approach in secret.  Merchants almost never burst into praise!  They don't throw their hearts open with trust.

A merchant's relationship depends on what they have (goodness, knowledge, the right words, good deeds).

As a lover, my relationship depends on who God is.

The Right Basis for Prayer

Every interaction has rules or engagement.  What will cause my prayer to be heard?  Getting everything right?  Being good?

Religious people approach God as a boarder.  They're looking to present a fair and even exchange.  They think getting what they want from God depends on their performance.

Christ-followers approach God as a child.

It's based on commitment.  Jesus using "Our Father" was profoundly intimate language.

Being a Christian is not a change of behavior; it's a change of status.

You can tell if you have a boarder's mentality by how you respond when your prayers aren't answered right away.  If you get angry or anxious, you may be approaching God like a boarder.

We may wonder, "What am I doing wrong, that God didn't answer?"

Or we may say, "I did everything right!  How dare God not answer?"

"Give us this day our daily bread" doesn't sit well with Boarders or Merchants.  They need to plan way ahead and control things.

Praise and trust come naturally to Lovers and Children.

Things to try this week:

1)  Try some new practice in prayer. 

Find the time to draw near to God -- like a lover, like a child.

2)  A prayer exercise we're going to try corporately:

At 1:00, pray for 1 minute about our $1 million challenge.

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Does anything strike you after thinking about this sermon this week?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Sermon Response: Managing Our Bodies

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Over the past few weeks, we have been engaged in the study of "Self Management."  Though our previous examinations of "time management" and "financial management" were extremely important, their importance pales in comparison to today's study -- which focused on how we manage our bodies.

 
The sermon began with JaRee Thompson and her Crossfit coach Kristen talking about how they came to love the idea of fitness -- and the importance of body fitness in their personal and spiritual lives.  What was immediately clear from Kristen and JaRee's testimony was that successful athletes emerge from using the right motivation, to pursue the right goals, which ultimately yield personal progress in the right direction.  Kristen provided us a clear example of this by telling us that she didn't really make progress in losing weight until she changed her motivation from the goal of losing weight to the goal of improving her athletic performance. 
 
JaRee then shared today's scriptural message from 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 regarding the sexual immorality and the sins we commit within and against our own bodies.  
 
The critical point of this passage for today's sermon was that even in today's world we too often fail to recognize the importance of our bodies as physical temples for the living God.   For the Corinthians, this problem expressed itself as sexual immorality -- where the social mores of Corinthian society found it acceptable and commonplace to join with prostitutes -- even as part of the local religious rites and culture.  Recognizing the potential danger of this, the Apostle Paul strongly warned the church of Corinth that their bodies were not their own -- that they were in fact, part of the body of Christ -- so that for any member to consort with a prostitute, would be the same as uniting Christ with a prostitute.
 
Although our the social mores of Northern Virginia might make consorting with temple prostitutes less likely, as believers, our bodies are still part of the body of Christ.  As such, what we do to and with our bodies remains critically important.  In today's world of fast food, desk jobs, internet pornography, and stressful schedules it is far too easy to eat too much, exercise too little, and surrender our minds and bodies to nameless images rather than trying to pursue real relationships.   Today's members of the body of Christ face new temptations, but Paul's admonition is as valid today as it was in the first century following the crucifixion.  As members of the body of Christ, we must take special care -- not only to avoid doing things that would be harmful -- but more importantly, to do things that would be beneficial.   In strengthening ourselves we strengthen the body of Christ.
 
But we must also be cautious about keeping the right focus.   Strengthening the body for the purpose of getting 6 pack abs -- is not the same as strengthening the body for the purposes of honoring God.  As we work to strengthen the body, we must take care that we do it for the right motivation, as this will help us to set the right goals so that we can make progress in the right direction.
 
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Gateway folks, do you have any further thoughts about this topic as you try to live it out this week?

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