In the 1st Century, the Christian movement differed most visibly from the other movements in the Roman World in that… the Christian’s practices were not confined to sacred occasions and social locations but were integral to the formation of communities with a distinctive self-awareness.
- Wayne Meeks, Yale University
"Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand” (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). This is a call for us to reconsider how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God’s eternal purposes, of taking our life into his life.
- Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Formation best takes place in Christian community. This outline of the Spring series invites us to practically and prayerfully share together in a rhythm of living out our church values through historic and contemporary Christian practices. We have assigned a single word that summarises each of our church's values that we will start teaching on from the start of Lent for seven weeks and have included insights into how we're thinking about that value in the life of our community. We encourage the church to find a place (small group or weekly prayer triplet) to experiment with a shared weekly rhythm. Living out this intentional rule of life together will build community in our church, increase our awareness of God's presence and form us more and more into the image of Jesus.

 

A CULTURE OF PRESENCE

God has always desired that we live in His presence. This is how the scriptures begin and end. God’s plan in redemption was not just to save us from sin, but to save us to himself so that we could have intimate fellowship with him. We are the temple of God, where he chooses to dwell (2 Corinthians 6:16-18) and his tangible presence distinguishes us from everyone else on earth (Exodus 33:15-17).

Practice: Sabbath

Sabbath brings about joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Persons practicing the Sabbath realise freedom from anxiety by viewing possessions as gifts from God, remembering we are stewards to care for God’s gifts to us, and making our goods available to others, as it reorients our lives, perspectives, and attitudes.

"Contemporary culture lacks both the inward reality and the outward life-style of simplicity . . . We are trapped in a maze of competing attachments."
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          Go for a prayer walk either on your own or with friends.

-          Listen to a worship album and choose to worship God.

-          Pray Psalm 34 and journal your thoughts.

-          Write out your own psalm of praise.

-          In a group write down  and share what you really believe about God’s presence.

-          Lectio Devina Psalm 139. (For more info on Lectio Devina email andrew@htrinity.ie.)

-          Dedicate some time to giving thanks to God for times of sensing his presence.

 

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A CULTURE OF EMPOWERMENT

It has been said that the church is the only institution left in society where all of the other spheres of culture overlap. Our church does not exist for itself, but to equip people with a vision to join God in his great redemptive work and then send them into the world to do just that. From fashion to education, marketing to international relations, our people see themselves primarily as agents of God’s Kingdom and work, not just for the bottom line, but for the common good. The church is called to identify, empower, equip and release people to thrive in God’s unique call on their life, within the body of Christ and the larger culture (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Practice: Encouragement

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Hebrews 10:24-25

The body of Christ encourages its individual members in a way that empowers both the members and the body itself to join God in the renewal of all things. How will you encourage another member of the body of Christ today? How might you spur them on toward love and the good deeds God is inviting them into as he establishes his kingdom in our midst? 

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          For an entire day be intentional to use your words to build up people – journal how you feel.

-          Hand write an  encouraging letter to someone.

-          Tell someone about a gift or skill you see and them and say how thankful you are for it.

-          Explore the concept of love languages with a group setting or in prayer triplet.

-          Invite someone into a key task this week that you could do on your own.

-          For an entire day practice active listening – journal how you feel.

-          List and reflect on your spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-30.

 

A CULTURE OF RENEWAL

We have a conviction that the Creator God is at work to heal and renew the whole world. To follow Jesus and join him in his mission is to become agents of renewal in our neighbourhoods, industries and our city as a whole. We have realised the privilege we enjoy—even though most of us would not consider ourselves to be wealthy—and are committed to stewarding our privilege on behalf of others. We work towards establishing justice (Isaiah 58) for the good, true and beautiful in all of life and culture.

Practice: Serve

In the scriptures Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Seeking the kingdom means seeking God's vision for the world and acting on God's invitation to join him in the work he is doing. This begins with a vision of God’s kingdom and the renewing or all things. Nowhere in scripture is that vision of renewal made more plain than in the person, words, and ministry of Jesus. The four Gospels in the New Testament provide vivid accounts of Jesus’ life. We want to be a people of the Gospels. Read through one of the gospel accounts of Jesus this week.

A vision of God’s kingdom will emerge and not only will we see it in the scriptures, we’ll begin to see it in our world. Or go on a prayer walk in your neighbourhood, workplace or college,  either alone or in a group. Before you walk spend some time with God thanking for the place you are going to pray over and for bringing you to this place. Ask God to open your heart to the needs of others, your ears to those whom you interact with, your eyes to life being lived around you in all of its beauty and brokenness. As you walk, pay attention to how the Holy Spirit guides you and your prayers

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week, either on your own or with others from church:

-          Share a nice meal with a person in real need.

-          Read and reflect on Jesus words from the Sermon on the Mount.

-          Listen to one of the Gospels during the week.

-          Serve in a community project in the city.

-          Find someone to practically show Christ’s love and provision to.

-          Spend time each day praying for your place of work.

 

A CULTURE OF PURSUIT

God calls us to seek him above all things, and he promises that when we do, we will find him, and he will reward us (Hebrews 11:6). We want to radically seek God’s face, power, promises and glory to see our lives and community marked by the promises and power of God (Hebrews 6:12).

Practice: Prayer

Prayer is the interactive conversation with God about what we are doing together. Prayer is, first and always, listening to God - seeking to grasp what his will is in any given circumstance. In listening and perceiving God’s will, the pray-er is inevitably a participant of change, within oneself and those circumstances and lives for which we pray. Prayer is a process of lifelong learning as we seek to approach our Father with openness, honesty, and trust as his child.

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          Pray the daily office each day – morning , afternoon, evening.

-          Write out in a journal  your prayers  to God each day.

-          Follow through with a prompting you feel from the Holy Spirit.

-          Read Chapter of A.W. Tozers Pursuit of God. (Available online.)

-          Visio Divina – Rembrandt’s “ Christ In A Storm”.

-          Pray for at least 30 minutes – journal afterwards.

-          Slowly pray through the Lord’s prayer.

-          Come to the church's Worship and Prayer Evening.

 

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A CULTURE OF SACRIFICE

The central image of our faith is the cross. Christ giving his life away for others in sacrificial love. We are called to embrace the way of sacrifice. We are called to give of our time, resources, money, skills and talents to see the Kingdom of God advanced here in Dublin, and to make a clear way for others (Luke 9:23-25).It’s not easy to get to the city, live in the city, or stay in the city. Yet we encourage, as it all all possible, for people to be committed beyond convenience, to the point of great personal sacrifice, to build a loving community centred on Jesus in Dublin City no matter what it takes.

Practice: Fasting

Fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. The focus of biblical fasting is always on spiritual purposes. The heart of one who is fasting is to seek God, most often privately and with no motive to gain approval from people. Fasting provides the opportunity to reveal those things that control us. It reminds us that we are sustained by every word of God and it restores balance in a believer’s life regarding priorities and nonessentials.

"Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained."
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          Forgo at least one meal and use the time to do something that restores your soul.

-          Forgo at least one meal and use the money saved to bless someone in need.

-          Make a conscious choice to put yourself last – give up your seat to someone, pay a toll for someone, be creative and be bold!

-          Do and significant act of secret generosity.

-          Get up earlier than you need to and take the time to commune with God.

 

A CULTURE OF GRACE

In a harsh and often unforgiving world, we believe the church should always be the place where people can find grace. One of our greatest pleasures is seeing the resurrection joy on a person’s face as they move from death to life in Jesus, coming out from under a lifetime of shame to embrace their new identity as a member of God’s own household.

We want to be rooted and grounded in the reality and wonder of the grace of God. We believe that this not only changes our standing before God from sinners to sons and daughters, but also changes our hearts to want to do the will of God. This is the promise of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:10-13). Grace also teaches us to be holy, and to live into the fullness of self-controlled, upright and holy lives as a contrast society in our world (Titus 2:11-14).

Practice: Confession

Though through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, we may confess our sins and be directly forgiven by God, we also have the opportunity and admonition to “confess our sins to one another” (James 5:16). In receiving a confession by a sister or brother in Christ, a believer has an incredible chance to minister understanding and forgiveness.

"God has given us our brothers and sisters to stand in Christ’s stead and make God’s presence and forgiveness real to us."
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          Confess your heart and anything that separates you from God.

-           Read and pray through 1 John 1.

-          Ask forgiveness of someone you feel you have wronged.

-          Read a chapter of The Ragamuffin Gospel.

-          Read aloud and reflect on The Apostles' Creed.

-          Read and pray slowly through Psalm 51 or 32.

-          What are the areas of temptation in your life right now? Share these with someone you trust.

 

A CULTURE OF FAMILY

The primary metaphor the Bible uses to describe the people of God in the New Testament is that of a family. We are not called to see the church as a series of loose connections or a place for individuals to come so their needs can be met. It is essentially about learning to love others as Christ has loved us, (John 13:33-34) and lay our lives down for one another in tangible, compelling ways (1 John 3:14-19). This means we prioritize our life together to support, celebrate, mourn, struggle, love, forgive, and serve one another.

Practice: Celebration

Celebration is a life of “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

God loves to celebrate and loves even more when we, as his people, join him in celebrating all thewonderful things he has done for us. Joy that is exhibited in celebration keeps everything else going, produces energy and makes us strong. This genuine and sustaining joy is achieved through obedience to God. Celebration manifests in endless ways: singing, dancing, laughing, as well as taking advantage of celebrating festivals, holidays, and the milestones of life.

"Celebration comes when the common ventures of life are redeemed."
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Make a commitment to yourself to practise one or more of these during the coming week , either on your own or with others from church:

-          Invite some people, whom you don’t know that well from church , for lunch / dinner or both!

-          Practice lectio Devina or Visio Divina in a group setting.

-          Make a meal and bring it to someone inside or outside the church as a gift.

-          Decide on a thoughtful gift for a friend or spouse.

-          Lay hands someone in church and pray specific blessing prayers over family, children or friends,