Spiritual Disciplines #4 – Prayer

I’ve been wrestling with the discipline of prayer this past week. I have to be reminded to pray way too much. I pray when a request is given. I pray when I hear of a need. I pray when nobody else at the dinner table will do it. In fact, most meals I get the honor of praying for the food. I think that is one of the unsaid perks that come along with being the pastor. All of these particular prayers are good and needed, but I’m struggling to call them a discipline.  

 

Our definition of spiritual discipline – Practices that are the guaranteed places of spiritual transformation.   

 

More often than not, my prayers seem to miss the target of a spiritual discipline. Therein lies the reason I’m wrestling with the discipline of prayer. My prayers tend to be a function of duty or responsibility. The spiritual discipline of prayer is much more. Again, let us not beat ourselves up, but let us seek together something more in our prayer lives. I’m seeking along with you. 

 

How do you turn something from a responsibility to a transforming spiritual practice? Prayer needs to move from simple words and thoughts to something more significant.  

 

Richard Rohr said, “ Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence.” 

 

Prayer is a word that describes a relationship. Disciplines of prayer provide patterns for attending to God throughout the day. They open us to the divine dialogue through the intentional encounter with the Trinity. In Donald Whitney’s work on spiritual disciplines, he compares learning to pray like learning a foreign language. It is clunky and awkward at the beginning, and to become more fluent, you must immerse yourself in the language and practice, practice, practice. This is where the secular definition of discipline is essential: to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control. Learning to pray requires training and instruction.  

 

More thoughts to come on prayer. I’d love to hear how each one of you practice praying. What are your methods? How do you pray? Please send me an email with your thoughts.  

 

Jason@casperchurch.com or Jason.Fazel@gmail.com 


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Spiritual Disciplines #3 – Worship

Spiritual Disciplines #3 – Worship

Based on my ability to parent, I’m learning that it is quite challenging to encourage someone to do something they have zero desire to do. I have a cute 6th grader that I’m partially responsible for developing into a contributing member of society. There are days when it is clear that my encouragement is not inspiring him to read, clean his room, or even eventually pay his taxes. He seems to be locked into if it isn’t fun, I’m not interested mentality. I do imagine that he might wake up one morning and do all the things I’ve asked of him with joy and ambition.  

I see a correlation between encouraging my son to clean his room and convincing some of you that you should love to worship.  

Worship is a discipline that will transform you.  I so long for you all to desire to do it. 

The spiritual discipline of worship is such a vulnerable experience. Worship forces us to express in a way that doesn’t feel comfortable. Worship asks us to sing songs that don’t quite fit our personalities. Worship can be a struggle. I have found myself over the years being intentionally distracted or needing to go to the bathroom when the music starts in the church. So I get it. It’s not always easy to worship.  

The following excerpt is from the book I’m using to help shape some of our focus on spiritual disciplines, The Spiritual Discipline Handbook:

The heart of worship is to seek to know and love God in our unique way. Each one of us fulfills some part of the divine image. Each one of us loves and glorifies God in a particular way that no one else can. It should not surprise us then that worship styles and tastes differ: traditional, contemporary, liturgical, charismatic. One style of worship is not better than another. The quality of worship emerges from the heart and its focus. Worship can touch our deepest feelings. But that is not a litmus test for worship. Feelings can come and go. But the joyous Trinity remains forever worthy. Above and before all other good things remain the Pearl of great price, the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords.  

 

Spiritual Exercise

 

  1. Consider the many names of God uses to reveal himself to us. Which of these names identifies where God is in your life now? Talk to God about what this revelation of who he is meant to you.  
  2. Think of the times you have been deeply moved in worship. What was happening in your life at that time? What was going on in worship? Put yourself in places where you most easily connect with God in worship. 
  3. Write a letter or song to God, expressing your love and honor of him.
  4. Come before God with an open and listening ear. Write the question, “What do I value most” at the top of the bulletin on a Sunday morning. Answer the question

 

I’ve attached a  Bible Study to bring the spiritual discipline of Bible Study into the worship realm.  

 

Read Revelation 4–5

 

What is God’s ultimate purpose for men and women? To worship him! The Westminster Catechism puts it this way: The chief end of human beings is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

 

What images come to mind when you think of worship?

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION. Why is worship important? What role does it play in your relationship with God.

 

To truly worship God we must see who he is and realize what he has done. In Revelation 4–5 we enter with the apostle John into the heavenly realms, where we observe the response of those who truly see the Lord. John is writing to believers around A.D. 90–95 during the reign of the emperor Domitian, a time of tremendous persecution. They were living in a world where evil was rampant and apparently all-powerful. However, John’s focus on God in all his glory would have been an apt reminder that evil is not in control. God’s purpose stands; he controls the world’s destiny. The worship pictured in these chapters reorients our thinking too, giving us a vision of God’s character and rule in the world. Read Revelation 4.

 

  1. Imagine all that John experienced in his glimpse into heaven. Describe what he saw, heard and felt.

 

  1. What is the first and primary sight that meets his eyes (vv. 2–3)?

 

What is the significance of this?

 

  1. What do we learn about God’s character from John’s description in this chapter?

 

  1. What response does this evoke from the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (vv. 6–11)?

 

  1. How does this compare or contrast with your experiences of worshiping God?

 

  1. Read Revelation 5. What characters are involved in 5:1–7, and what is the nature of their activity?

 

  1. Jesus is described both as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5) and as “a Lamb looking as if it had been slain” (5:6). What do these names tell us about who Jesus is?

 

  1. In 5:9–10 what do we learn about the results of Christ’s death?

 

  1. Reread 5:8–14, identifying the different beings worshiping the Lamb. What different forms of worship do you see?

 

  1. What does this variety suggest about our attitude toward forms of worship which are very different from what we are accustomed to?

 

  1. Compare your worship with that of Revelation 4 and 5. What are the similarities and differences?

 

In what ways would you like for your worship to be more like what is described here?

 

Considering God’s character as seen in Revelation 4 and 5, spend some time now worshiping him in brief expressions of praise and thanksgiving.

 

This passage has focused on the God we worship, but worship also affects the person worshiping. Read Isaiah 6:1–8. What elements of worship do you find in this passage, and in what ways does Isaiah’s vision of God in his glory affect his own perspective and actions?

 

Sterk, A., & Scazzero, P. (1999). Christian Disciplines: 12 Studies for Individuals or Groups (pp. 18–21). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.


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Spiritual Disciplines #2 – Fasting

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Fasting – A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus, who alone can satisfy.  

Dallas Willard says in his book The Spirit of Disciplines,

 Actually, fasting is one of the more important ways of practicing that self-denial required of everyone who would follow Christ. In fasting, we learn how to suffer happily as we feast on God. Persons well used to fasting as a systematic practice will have a clear and constant sense of their resources in God. And that will help them endure deprivations of all kinds, even to the point of coping with them easily and cheerfully.   

Through self-denial, we begin to recognize what is controlling us. Brian Taylor said, “Self-denial is profoundly contemplative for it works by the process of human subtractions and divine addition.” Denying yourself a meal, and eventually, you will hear the growls of our stomach and the thoughts of your hunger. When those pains come, take a moment to reject the cravings and turn to the Lord and seek spiritual food for nourishment. This difficult act of self-denial can put us into a listening posture to hear God’s voice in our life. Fasting is an opportunity to be satisfied in the soul through spiritual nourishment.  

I’ve been working through a book called The Spiritual Discipline Handbook – Practices That Transform Us, written by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Each chapter contains insight, pointers, and exercises within the spiritual disciplines. In the section on fasting, there is an excellent help when entering into the discipline of fasting. The following are a list of exercises in fasting:

 

 

  • To deepen your understanding of how Jesus denied himself and embraced suffering and death for you, practice some fasting during Lent. When the fasting is difficult, share your thoughts and feelings with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you? Tell Jesus what it means to you to share and fellowship with him in his sufferings.

 

 

  • Fast one meal a week. Spend your mealtime in prayer. When you feel hungry, sit with Jesus in the wilderness, and feed on the bread of heaven. Talk to Jesus about what his self-denial means to you. 

 

 

  • For one week, fast from media, sports, shopping, reading, or use of the computer. Dedicate the time you now have to God. What feelings arise in you? What thoughts interrupt your prayer?

 

 

  • Make two lists: one of needs, the other of wants. Ask God to show you where to fast from some of your desires. Offer to God the time you spend hankering after your wants.

 

 

  • Abstain from purchasing morning coffee or daily sodas or evening videos. Offer the money or time to God.  

 

 

  • When facing a trial, decide on a fast that gives you time to seek God’s strength in your journey. 

 


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Spiritual Discipline #1 – Study of Scripture

When thinking about studying Scripture, it is essential to have a clear picture of the goals. Remember, spiritual disciplines are practices that are a “guaranteed place of communion, transformation, and healing.” These practices become a strategic place to hear the voice of God as He calls you into action. So what is the goal of studying Scripture? There can be so many. Here are some surface-level targets to aim at while getting started in the discipline of studying Scripture

3 Targets While Studying God’s Word

-To Know God
There is a difference between knowledge and knowing. I’m sure many of us have explored a little Facebook stalking of people. With a few clicks, we can gather quite a bit of information about people. We can learn where a person lives, who they are married to, where they work, how many kids they have, and what they had for dinner the last few nights. Facebook stalking produces some knowledge about a person, but we all know that you don’t know them. What does it take to know someone? Time, commitment to listening, and a little face to face time. When we have those actions with people, we move from a basic knowledge of who they are to truly knowing them. The desire for us would be to commit approaching Scripture with a desire to know God, not just have some facts.

-To Understand God
More questions, how do we understand something so incomprehensible? How do we understand something that was written in another language for a different audience? When these questions creep into the mind, they tend to sap the desire to even dig into Scripture. The lack of desire is a real enemy to understanding the character, beauty, and enormity of God. God so wants to reveal Himself to us, and God wants to deepen His relationship with us, God doesn’t want us to be confused by Him, but to understand Him truly. That is why it is incredibly important to seek understanding before reading anything. Try praying this prayer each time before opening up the Bible, “God help me to understand who you are more deeply when I read the Word today.”

-To Hear God
Isn’t this the ultimate goal? God, what do you desire? When the voice of God is clear, the mission of God is clear. One of the regular events in the Fazel home is someone standing at the base of the stairs yelling up the stairs asking questions, and the person upstairs isn’t hearing any of it. Every member of the family is guilty of this. The person upstairs receiving the question is completely distracted by something. That distraction is many times a solid core door. The person at the bottom of the stairs gets louder and louder to no avail. It is ridiculous. Now put that into the context of hearing God. What type of distractions exists to where the voice of God is impossible to hear? What barriers are there to prevent the hearing of God’s voice while studying Scripture? Distractions and obstacles are a variety of things; some are great, others not so much. To truly hear God’s voice while practicing the discipline of the study of Scripture, barriers and distractions have to be minimal or removed.

These thoughts are not a comprehensive look at a spiritual discipline of studying Scripture. It is merely a push to get the juices flowing.


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Thinking about Worship

Worship is such a funny phenomenon. Like most things in our western culture, we have filtered worship through our gadgets, microwaves, smoke machines, and 21st-century technology mindset. The result is worship being spit out looking nothing like what we intended it to be. Worship has become like everything else in our current culture – Selfish!

We express our attitude towards worship in these phrases:

“Worship is what I define it as” “I get to determine what worship looks like” “This is real worship. . .” “That’s not what real worship is”

Our current cultural has claimed that our expression is the primary value in humanity. This way of thinking has found its way into the church and has infected the way we worship. We seem to only worship as much as we can enjoy it. We will always struggle to engage in life-giving worship of God when we only worship what we like; we are tipping on the precipices of idol making.

Worship has lost its potency within humanity. Approaching worship with the current mindset of the 21st-century person creates a dangerous slope, and we lose the fundamental aspect of what worship is supposed to be.

AWE!

Two suggestions to make AWE your foundation in worship

I am a huge proponent of personal expression. God gave us gifts and abilities to use to glorify Him. I will explore expression in worship in the next couple days. These thoughts are to guard us as we develop our church culture while living within the 21st-century. My desire is for us to shape the culture around us and teach people how to live. My two suggestions are counter-cultural to this world, but provide great clarity when it comes the origin point of worship, AWE!

Start With Confession

Confession is a starting point to experience a deeper life in the Lord. The verbal acknowledgment of the need for Jesus in your life puts you a position to truly engage in worship. You need forgiveness, you need help, you need love, you need stability, you need freedom from guilt, and you need Him. When you confess, your heart sings(worships) for all that He has done for you and continues to do for you and in you. Confession generates a longing in the Spirit for Him who can satisfy your soul’s unrest. I believe that a natural response to that satisfaction and hunger is worship. Try confession this Sunday or in your own space during the week. Confess your need for Jesus and see if that alters your worship.

Submission

Submission is all about control. We don’t submit because we don’t want to relinquish control. In the worship setting within the church environment, this is especially true. We tend to complain about style, methods, or song selection. When these discussions take place, we are devolving to being just like our culture. My wants are more important than anything else. I will speak to style, methods, and song selection at a different time. On a personal level, we need to submit to the Spirit of God to lead us into worship. Control prevents that in our lives. We don’t want the Spirit to guide us. What areas of your life are you unwilling to relinquish control? How is your worship hindered because it’s hard to submit?


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Teach Me to Live – Lesson 2

I’ve spent several years of my professional life defending myself. For many years I’ve had the pleasure of serving the church as my occupation and passion, but until moving here to Casper to lead our church, I’ve always felt the need to defend my pastoral position. Much of my activity in pastoral leadership has been about showing that I’m worthwhile, and my position is important to the church. A number of those years, I have felt the need to defend my ideas and skills, which was taxing on my identity and the desire to continue serving.

November 1, 2019

I start my new position as lead pastor of Casper Alliance Church

The odd thing, I didn’t somehow wake up in November smarter, more skilled, or even more pastoral, but I did wake up on November 1st with the lack of need to defend myself. Up till that point, I had always been a “secondary pastor” not a “real” pastor. The sad thing is, I’ve heard that phrase multiple times in my life, “someday you will be a real pastor Jason.” “Eventually you will switch chairs, and your voice will matter.” Wow, that hurts, and it’s sad, but I’ve spent too much energy fighting that feeling of not good enough because of my position. It is shocking what a simple position change does to the way you feel about yourself.

THE REAL QUESTIONS – What do I need to prove? Who do I need to prove it to?

The proof of my love of Christ, my love for others, and my willingness to follow Jesus publically were never in question. The things which Jesus tells us in John 15 were never at the core of my struggle. I was looking for validation and fruit in all the wrong places. I was focused on man as the source of significance. Some of this is due to the way I’m wired and how God has created me. I’m a goal-oriented, focused leader, and I tend to find value in accolade. Those can be incredible strengths for me professionally, but if they get out of whack, I find myself getting into a rat race of human affirmation. When Jesus says in John 15:8, “By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” He is asking me to abide in Him and allow the fruit to speak of who the Father is. My instinct is to take all the fruit I think I’m producing and put it into a beautiful fruit basket display for all to see. The glory comes to me in that situation, not the Father. It is so easy how good things in our lives can be altered to become a selfish ambition.

How are you proving that you are a disciple? Is your fruit for a man or the Lord?

Jesus, Teach me to Live.


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Teach Me to Live – Lesson 1

I am pretty sure the Lord is working on me in a particular area, and I’m reminded each lesson how bad of a learner I really am. Remember, when I teach through a series, it always starts with me. What is God teaching me? Where am I learning or needing to learn? In 6 months of leading our church, it hasn’t failed yet, the very thing I’m trying to teach us a congregation I am learning privately.

A couple of weeks back, I shared a recurring dream that I was having. The dream typically followed the same pattern, me standing in the front of a beautifully ornate cathedral, the room filled will everyone I know plus some, and I’m always faced away from the people with the inability to lead or speak in their direction. In my dream, I would feel neutered and useless. As I was sharing that dream, it dawned on me that I was becoming consumed with leading and the accolades that come with the success of my leadership. I was interpreting the dream right in front of all who were there on that Sunday morning. The bottom line was regardless of my skill, talent, and desire, I still need help. I need help from the Lord to not make it about me and what I am doing. I need to be dependent on the Spirit of God to fill me and guide my leadership. Move forward to last week, the church hit an all-time high in plays on our podcast. My oh my was I hyped. People are hearing what I’m saying, and that is good. I felt super proud! Like before I felt a sense of accomplishment. We are doing it! We are going somewhere. All this prep and hard work are going pay off. I/we will get noticed, and we will grow.

Let’s move forward one more week. On Sunday we discovered that something went goofy with the soundboard and the teaching didn’t get fully recorded. This is no one’s fault, there really isn’t an explanation for it. This is why I say the Lord is working on me in a very specific area. I was immediately reminded that it’s not about me. During the teaching time, I had a small “out of body” experience where I thought to myself, this is good, people are going to like this when they hear it on the podcast. What on earth. I was focused on the attention received elsewhere rather than concentrating on the people right in front of me that God has graciously allowed me to lead. The people who needed to hear what was said were there to listen to it. I’m a slow learner. Jesus, Teach me to Live.

If I’m going to preach dependency on God’s Spirit, then I should be dependent as well. This is my confession that is very easy for me to slip into working in my own strengths and skill. My instincts and abilities are to promote and grow our organization. If I’m not dependent on Jesus, it will grow for all the wrong reasons. It can’t be about me. It is all about Jesus. I want to see people come to Jesus through Casper Alliance’s ministry. I want to see Jesus change the lives of all of us, plus whoever joins our community.

Jesus, Teach me to Live.


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Something More

Slogans and catch phrases within the Church are a pet peeve of mine.  I really don’t like when churches use a set of words that have a special implied meaning or purpose within their community.  

 

 

It feels like it is easy to be left out. I think churches try hard to make the phrase intriguing enough to where if you are an outsider your interest is perked and you say to yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder what that means? I should go ask one of the clearly identified ushers to tell me what ‘blah blah blah’ means, so I can be more involved in this random church where I don’t know anyone.”  My natural gift of cynicism pierces right through much of what we do as churches when trying to give our organization a mission and vision. Sorry. So yeah I’m not a huge fan of catchphrases.  

Truth be told this post is about establishing a slogan for our church family.  

Something More is my new slogan.  

I want us as a church to be longing for something more.  In our church tradition, the “something more” is often called the “deeper life.” If you are unfamiliar with following Jesus or the church a phrase like “The deeper life” really means nothing to you, but when we say “I want something more” that can r

eally mean something profound.  Desiring something more can build a passion within you to seek out the deeper things in life and faith.  I want something more for my marriage. I want something more for my family. I want something more with my finances. I want something more for my neighborhood. I want something more for my life. Those type of phrases we can all agree with and understand.  We can also give meaning to “something more” and define how to get there and what it can look like. That is a win!  So at Casper Church, I want to install the slogan “Something More” to our activities.   We are seeking something more from the Lord and we are helping others experience something more as they engage our church family.
 
 

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Wendy’s

I talked on Sunday about my backup plan of working at Wendy’s if the ministry was not an option for me.

I’ve been thinking about Wendy’s quite a bit lately. It is mostly due to the lack of carbs I’m putting into my body and I’m super hungry for some fast food, but it has still been on my mind.

I referenced during the teaching time on Sunday that Wendy’s was a crutch for me and I used it as an excuse to not fully step into leadership. All that is painfully true, but there were some tremendous outcomes from my decade long career at Wendy’s.
 
 
 

1. I can count and make change to the dollar very quickly.

2. I learned how to speak Spanglish. Yes, I can weave Spanish words for condiments into almost any conversation.

3. I learned how to have hard conversations with people. Firing someone is very difficult, inspiring someone is challenging, and apologizing for adding onion to someone’s hamburger six times a day is an exhausting experience.

4. I learned many skills that I still practice today. Although I needed to leave Wendy’s in my rear view mirror, God used that season in my life to shape me for leadership. The skills I picked up inside a fast food restaurant are critical to my life and leadership in ministry.

The question we all need to be asking ourselves each day is, “God, how are you shaping me to accomplish your purposes?” Days come and go so fast and it is our job as managers of The Kingdom Resources to use each day well. You may feel lost and hopeless in this season, but I assure you that God will shape you for His work if you ask. Living in the Kingdom of God is being aware of what God is doing through you. Are you managing The Kingdom Resources?

Ask yourself – God, how are you shaping me to accomplish your purposes?


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