Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spiritual Disciplines Series:Celebration: God Wants Us to Celebrate

Hey gang!

Prologue: When I asked for opinions to start the series of spiritual disciplines, I wasn’t sure where to begin. There are so many that most of us want to know about. All of us want to be more disciplined in our lives doing the things of God not only correctly, but in a way that honors him.

The following is a perfect story to talk about the spiritual discipline I chose. Not all disciplines are designed to ask us to take things away from our lives. All of the disciplines are good and should allow us to be able to be ourselves in front of God. Today’s beginning is something that most of us love to do.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 days. Ten days ago I heard the first of our Executive Pastor, Bill Burry’s wife being flown out to Springfield. She was in really bad shape. There was an infection in Kim and it was threatening her life.

Our church began to pray. People came as the church stayed open in the evenings to pray. Words of prayer were put out on the internet. Through the internet, churches in other parts of town, in other states and even in other countries began to pray for a life to continue. New Hope and many others were united in prayer.

Last Sunday came and the church held a prayer time during the Sunday school hour. At least 400 people stayed during that hour. They didn’t just come together in prayer. They also came together and healed along with Kim. People that normally don’t hang out with each other were hugging and changing the landscape because of listening to the inner voice of God.

People kept on praying. And on Saturday morning, the improbable only 10 days ago happened. Kim opened her eyes. She was greeted by the man that loves her more than anyone else other than Jesus. She recognized him and is continuing to grow stronger. By divine intervention, a life continues. The word spread by phone, internet and any other way possible. People began individually celebrating as they heard the news that the miracle they’ve been part of in prayer has begun to come to pass. God gets the glory and our faith grows stronger as believers.

When I say that people began to celebrate individually, I realize that corporately, another celebration will happen on Sunday. Then another one will happen when Kim gets released from the hospital and returns to church, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There will be lots of hard work to get back to full health, but today is a good day to celebrate a major first step on that road to recovery.

Today’s spiritual discipline is celebration. I chose it first because of this story. Folks, God wants us to celebrate when His hand comes to join and be a part of great things. Celebration can be many things. The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, which will be the primary text that I will use for this series, tells us that the desire of this spiritual discipline is to take joyful, passionate pleasure in God and the radically glorious nature of God’s people, Word, world and purposes. The definition is described as a way of engaging in actions that orient the spirit toward, worship, praise and thanksgiving. Delighting in all the attentions and never-changing presence of the Trinity fuels celebration.

To see Kim’s start toward recovery definitely brings us joy and passion. But if it fails to bring us to the One that made her healing possible, we’ve missed something. The healing is definitely bringing us to God in worship, praise and thanksgiving. We are thankful that we still have her smiling face to be a part of God’s church. Believe me, if you have been watching the internet today, you have seen praise going to the right place of God for bringing this miracle through. This is one of many reasons for celebration. God is with us in the storm and we are able to celebrate that he brings us through them.

Healing isn’t the only reason for celebration among God’s people though. The spiritual discipline of celebration includes identifying and pursuing those things that bring the heart deep gladness and reveling in them before the Lord. Some of the celebrations may include time spent with others in fellowship, sharing meals, working together on a project, serving in the community, worshipping at a church service, laughing, listening to music and dancing. There are other ways beyond this list and I’m sure you could come up with more.

Scripture is filled with celebration. David celebrated bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and his wife told him that she was embarrassed by how he acted. However, David told her, in 2 Samuel 6, that he would continue to celebrate like this even if it brought him embarrassment. David didn’t care what people thought when he celebrated before God. Sometimes that very thing holds us back from celebrating the way God wants us to. One of my music minister friends, Rusty Smallwood, always encouraged me and the rest of our church in Florida by telling us that we are worshipping to “an audience of one.” We are celebrating with Abba Father, the daddy that is not concerned if we are on key or dancing smoothly. He’s concerned that we let out our sincere joy in Him because of what He has done and will continue to do.

Jesus celebrated at a wedding with his mother and helped her by turning water into wine. God wants us to celebrate the good times. Sure, He does not want us to drink in excess or do foolish things, but He does want us to celebrate.

There are some God-given fruit that we will attain if we are actively using this spiritual discipline. First, we will always be keeping company with Jesus, no matter what. We’ll also live in a mentality of abundance rather than shortage. We’ll be participating in celebration and love with all three members of the Trinity. Don’t forget, celebration is naturally coming from the Holy Spirit inside us.

Next, we will be rejoicing in the God that rejoices over us. Can you picture God in a party hat as we celebrate? OK, maybe not, but he and the heavenlies celebrate as we celebrate. We are enjoying every good and perfect gift as coming from God. You know, there are people who may try to take the credit that their prayer brought about the celebration, but if we keep perspective, we realize that God has given us this gift.

Another fruit that we will enjoy is living out of the joy of your salvation. We can never be thankful enough that God has given us the gift of heaven through Jesus. This spiritual discipline will also cultivate a spirit of gladness. This doesn’t mean you’ll be happy all the time, but it will help you deal with life when it isn’t exactly ideal.

This next fruit of the spiritual discipline of celebration is one that I need to recognize a little more often. It gives you the ability to take yourself a little less seriously. It will also set you free from the addiction to criticism and negativity. None of us like to hear anything less than positive about ourselves, but with the discipline of celebration, it won’t bring us down as far as negativity tends to.

The final fruit that celebration assists us in is having holiday traditions that guide your celebration. I always remember that first Christmas after my salvation. I bought a nativity set and began learning the story and began reading it each year at Christmas. It gives a great reminder of how Jesus began that walk toward perfection so that he could lay down his life at Calvary.

So remember, God wants us to celebrate as we walk with Him. When great things happen, don’t be afraid to allow yourself to celebrate. God may be watching, but he’s not looking for perfection. He is looking for a heart that is thankful that He is with us.

I love you guys!

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