Pulse Podcast 013: Incarnation

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Viewer warning: There are some bad attempts at word play in this. Sigh. We can’t control each other. Or ourselves, apparently.

We want our podcasts to be generally applicable whenever they’re watched, or listened to, so while this is inspired by the Christmas season, it isn’t totally Christmas-themed; Incarnation is relevant all through the year, but especially at Christmas, when we reflect on how it all began.

We have a preview version here, which we invite you to play in your worship service and encourage people to check out the longer one:

And finally, we have an audio-only version:

Prayer Calendar: Prayer Habits

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Dave is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. His regular contributions are excerpted in the monthly Prayer Calendar.

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Habits seldom receive good press. In fact, in today’s culture of suspicion, to speak favorably of them might be labeled fake news. To develop and sustain habits of any kind are viewed by some as burdensome, confining and boring. Many want lives that are spontaneous, unplanned, busy and full, lived in short bursts rather than the long haul. Maybe that’s why people groan when they think of New Year’s resolutions. They take intentional work and seldom last. Resolutions don’t often turn into habits.

Prayer habits are essential to a healthy prayer life.

I had to think after writing that last sentence if I believed it, and yes, I stand by that statement. I’ve become convinced that times of prayer don’t happen easily in our North American culture. Habits help the prayer to flow.

Of course, you already have some prayer habits. Take the following quiz to identify a few of yours.

“For me, prayer happens most often . . . “

  • In times of crisis
  • When I want God to act
  • When I want to spend time with God

 

  • In church
  • In smaller groups with other believers
  • When I am alone

 

  • Whenever I need to
  • At set times of the day
  • When someone asks me to

 

  • With my head bowed
  • On my knees
  • With up-raised hands

In Luke 11, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he didn’t go into the “how” of prayer, what prayer habits to engage. Instead, he gave them a model prayer for group recitation and taught them to ask things of the Father with a spirit of audacious expectancy.

Yet there were prayer habits in his life, which the disciples would have observed. Scot McKnight in his book, Praying with the Church (Paraclete Press, 2006), reminds us that Jews in the time of Jesus intentionally prayed three times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). They would pray the Psalms, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6), and the Ten Commandments. Jesus probably did the same. Luke 5:16 (and other passages) tell us, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus Christ had certain practices/habits that intentionally brought prayer into his life.

It might, then, be a good thing for us to develop practices/habits that intentionally draw us to pray rather than waiting for the “spirit (ours)” to move!

Pulse Podcast 012: Identity

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As I’m sure you can guess, in our under-20-minute format, we barely scratched the surface of this episode’s topic: Identity. We just feel that it’s such an important issue to consider, we had to address it, even in this kind of incomplete way.

Hopefully, this can spark meaningful discussion in your circles of influence. If you want to process it with us, look for our post on Facebook and Twitter, and reply to us there.

And now for the teaser/preview version — we encourage you to play this in your church or small group to introduce the longer version:

And here is the audio-only version:

The Pulse: Flipping it on its Head

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Brad is the EFCC’s Communications Catalyst. In this role, he prompts awareness and promotes participation in the issues, ideals and ministries which matter to the EFCC family.

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Express. Announce. Share. Tell. Speak. Explain. Expound.

Do these sound like synonyms for communicate to you? When we talk about someone being a good communicator (or a bad communicator, for that matter), it seems like these are usually the things we’re referring to.

But what if this is not primarily how we’re supposed to evaluate, or be evaluated? These are all externally focused — they describe the way we send communication out. They’re missing a huge component of the communication equation.

How about listen?

There is a repeated emphasis in the Bible about receiving communication. Most of us likely recognise James 1:19. When I watch people angrily talk past each other, it seems that this still feels second-best.

Likewise, when we talk about strong leadership, we usually mean bravado, boldness and authority. Someone who’s willing to take charge, say it like it is, call a spade a spade, etc., etc.

In the face of that, listening sounds weaker. Practically wimpy. It can imply we don’t have our own thoughts, our own perspectives — that we’re relying on other people to set our agenda, or dictate our terms.

On one hand, that’s not always a terrible idea; Jesus was clear that to follow him, we must consistently lower our own status — to die to our self.

On the other, it reveals that we clearly have some room to grow in the way we think about listening.

Listening doesn’t mean either accepting or rejecting other people’s ideas or perspectives. Rather, listening gives us the tools to understand the problem.

Listening is strength.

In the discipline of nonviolent communication, the ultimate goal is to identify a need. It takes wading through a whole lot of murk — blame and subterfuge and wishes and wants — before we begin to arrive an actual, actionable need. This principle can work at every level, from weighty-but-delicate international diplomacy, to intrapersonal communication (the way each of us talks to our self).

Needs are not self-evident.

We don’t wear them on our sleeves. We hide them because they are what make us vulnerable. Exposing a need offers people the most direct way to hurt us. Either by ignoring the need. Or worse, by intentionally attacking it.

As a result, we often we keep our needs so well protected that we are unable to articulate them, even just to ourselves. Yet it’s only when we understand all the needs at stake — as complicated or downright contradictory as they may seem — that we can begin to design solutions. In fact, therapists are telling us that we feel stronger and less anxious when we’ve divulged our needs to each other, even if they’re rebuffed, than we do if we keep them bottled up afraid of how people react if they knew.

Listening is power.

Listening is the formation of relationship, of successful negotiation and of understanding. Listening can unbind the layers of self-protection, of anger, jealousy, hurt, regret and anxiety that accompany a need. Listening connects people.

Listening makes an ‘us’.

And makes that us strong.

Prayer Calendar: Strengthening Prayer

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“Strengthening prayer” is not about making your prayers stronger but becoming stronger through prayer.

First, though, allow me to challenge you to do something you might not have done for a long time, memorize some scripture.

Try it with these verses, Psalm 84: 5-7:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.”

On this journey of life we draw our strength from God, even when going through hard, arid valleys, until at journey’s end we find ourselves in God’s presence.

So, what has this to do with prayer?

Here are some more verses to memorize, Ephesians 6: 10-11; 18-19:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Ok, you don’t have to memorize the verses to get the point, but don’t miss it. Don’t miss the connection between strength and prayer. On the journey of life and in the battles of life we need God’s strength. Prayer is a means to that end.

And don’t miss the connection to the gospel. Paul needed prayer so that he could with strength (fearlessly) make known the mystery of the gospel. That’s important for us to remember in our season of REVITALIZE: Growing as a Gospel Sharing People!

When you pray for yourself and others, ask God to give us the strength to be strong.