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Echoing Silence: God’s One Word

What intimate companionship with God while driving home yesterday. Four hours of solitude and silence. This ‘Creedal Meditation’ poem is an echo of that silence.

Echoing Silence:  God’s One Word

From Eternity to Eternity
Infinite Silence
Impenetrable Mystery
Father, Son and Spirit
Trinitarian Community
One God
By Breath Speaks
One Word

LOVE

The Echo of Silence
The Eternal Word
The Living Word
The Incarnate Word

JESUS

Enfleshed Love  (Bethlehem)
Growing Love  (Nazareth)
Baptised Love  (Jordon)
Empowered Love  (the Spirit)
Ministering Love  (Israel and beyond)
Suffering Love  (compassion)
Crucified Love  (Calvary)
Buried Love  (the tomb)
Resurrected Love  (the garden)
Ascended Love  (the heavens)
Reigning Love  (the Father’s right hand)
Returning Love  (the Second Coming)
Consummated Love  (the Marriage Feast)
Everlasting Love  (New Heavens & New Earth)

Enter The Mystery
Silence
Be The Echo
God’s One Word
By Empowering Breath
Enfleshed in your Life

LOVE

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Following Jesus by Practicing the Word – Part Two

Recap: The Practice of The Word and Daily Devotions 

Our highest value is our relationship with God: following Jesus in daily intimacy.
Our first priority and practice that makes it a reality is the discipline of The Word of God. Why ‘The Word’? Because it’s God’s self-revelation to us. Jesus is the Living Word, God’s full self-revelation. The Bible is God’s Spirit-inspired written Word or self-revelation – having power to transform us as we daily read, study, meditate, and memorize it.

We ‘do the Word’ in these four ways – placing ourselves under the Word’s authority – by having daily devotions or “quite time” with God. Do you have a specific time and place set apart to encounter God in prayer and The Word? To the extent we consistently engage in that time and activity the Spirit progressively transforms us. The affect of a long obedience in the same direction accumulates into fruit-full growth in Christ’s mind and character.

HOW do we have a regular “quiet time” with God? HOW do we make it meaningful? There are two major reasons why many Christians don’t have daily focused time with God: they don’t know what to do (“it’s boring!), and due to lifestyle choices (“I’m too busy”). CS Lewis says it’s laziness: we allow other people/things to determine our REAL daily priorities and practices because we are too lazy to set our own – life lives us, we don’t live life! The deeper issue, of course, is spiritual sickness, lack of hunger, loss of love for Jesus. As Pedro Arrupe SJ says: “What or who are you in love with determines everything: what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you read, how you spend your time, who you relate to… fall in love with Jesus, stay in love with Jesus, and it will determine everything in your life!”

LECTIO DIVINA

The Latin Lectio (reading) Divina (Divine) refers to a tried and tested Christian practice of encounter with God in the Word and prayer. It means “spiritual reading” or “reflective and responsive reading of the Bible”. It gives a simple framework to spend 30 minutes of daily quality time with God. Rooted in the Hebrew tradition of Torah prayer-meditation, the monks from the 4th century began to practice Lectio – some for hours a day. Monk Guido II (14th century) was the first to record the framework of Lectio Divina in the four steps of lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I will add a few NOTES… here we go… Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing the Word – Part Two

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Following Jesus by Practicing The Word – Part One

Introduction to The Practice of The Word 

Our theme is “A Year (a Life) of Spiritual (Trans)Formation” – are you committed to this? How are you doing regarding Support & Accountability relationships? Are you praying… and linking up?
What is our highest value in being God’s Beloved? It is intimacy in relationship with Jesus (“Come, follow Me…”). And what is our highest priority & practice to grow this intimacy in following Jesus daily? It’s the discipline of The Word of God.

WHY the Word? WHAT is the Word of God? And HOW do we practice this discipline? These are the questions I will address in this teaching on our first priority and practice.

WHAT is “The Word of God”? WHY practice The Word?

Evangelicals think it’s the Bible, but it’s more than that.
The Word is essentially God’s self-revelation. And that self-revelation is Jesus. He is seen as the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God: Psalm 33:6, “By the word of YHWH the heavens were made, and the starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
God is revealed through creation – his Word to humanity – called general revelation.
God is revealed in history via Israel – the Old Testament – called specific revelation.
God is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth – the New Testament – called full-filled revelation. As John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God. And that Word became flesh and dwelt among us (in Jesus of Nazareth)… he who is the in bosom of the Father has revealed God to us” (John 1:1,14,18). Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing The Word – Part One

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Report on Pastor’s & Leader’s Prayer Retreat

I was privileged to lead a pastors and leaders retreat from 25 to 27 January, 2012. My Vineyard colleagues in the NECSA region asked me to lead the retreat on “Entering the New Year – Praying the Psalms”. What an honor for me to do that! We had 32 people in attendance. See the photos of some of the heavy dudes who came!

I gave 5 meditation inputs with handouts for personal reflection, journalling and prayer. I dealt with issues like how we enter and plan the new year, how to deal with busyness and “the tyranny of the urgent”, and above all, how to make prayer a practical priority to keep our own hearts soft and fragrant as a garden for the Lord. We are first and foremost personal followers of Jesus, working on our own spiritual formation, as leaders of God’s people. Then our primary task as spiritual leaders is the spiritual formation of our people – by inducting and guiding them in the basic practices required for spiritual growth and health. That was the overall focus of the retreat.

We kept silence for the morning and afternoon sessions to best engage in our meditation times, and then the late afternoons and evenings were for relaxation, interaction, sharing and fun! The feedback from those who attended was good – God evidently met with many in meaningful and significant ways!

I am happy to post a disk of the 5 talks (in MP3 format) with the notes and meditation sheets, so that you can set aside time and do the retreat yourself where you are. The talks and notes are self-explanatory; they will guide you through the retreat step by step. All I ask is for you to pay my costs (the disk and postage, etc) by electronic transfer or direct bank deposit. If you email me I will give you all the details.

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New Book Release – Praying the Psalms

Praying the Psalms Volume One FlyerI’m so happy to say my new book has come from the publishers hot off the press!

Praying the Psalms is the first volume of a new series by Alexander Venter. Learning to Pray will enable you to not only practice daily prayer, but also to develop a life of prayer. It’s a personal prayer journal for spiritual growth. Designed for individuals and small groups, this twelve-week program imparts the tried and tested wisdom of the most ancient of prayer books: the Hebrew Psalter. The meditation exercises will uncover the rich treasures hidden in David’s prayers, making the psalms alive, relevant and personal. As you work the psalm-prayers they will work you, transforming you into a living prayer of relational intimacy with God.

“Learning to Pray is a thoughtful and practical aid to assist you to enter the rich and wonder-filled world of praying the Psalms. No practice contributes to the spiritual development of the disciple of Jesus more than praying the Psalms – a practice that was central in the life of our Lord and has strengthened God’s people throughout the centuries.”

Bert Waggoner, National Director of The Association of Vineyard Churches, USA.

“Attentive to the Holy Spirit, Venter invites us to learn, pray and live the Psalms in authentic, life-orienting ways. With care and kindness, we are guided into a life of listening, responsive prayer that shapes our liturgos, our embodied practices in conversation with God. Venter reminds us that praying and enacting the Psalms takes practice, and he provides practical help to do just this.”

Cherith Fee Nordling, Professor of Biblical Theology at Regent College, Canada.

“You will undoubtedly benefit enormously from these meditations on the Psalms. Use it on your own, or equally, use it in home groups – either way, I think you’ll find Alexander has given us a wonderful resource for spiritual growth that will enrich your daily interactions with Jesus.”

John Mumford, Leader of the Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdom

To get a copy you can visit the Kingdom Treasures shop at http://www.kingdomtreasures.co.za/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=146&category_id=31&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1

Or you are welcome to contact me by email on contact_me@alexanderventer.com

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Durban Retreat Report

This is my very first blog post!! Can you believe it! Thanks to some friends who have tried really hard (over many years) helping this e-challenged pastor to start doing a blog! I have been in an e-fog, or so it seems, for a long, long time. Things are getting a little clearer now!

This first posting is a report on a trip last week to Durban (30 March to 3 April). I have sent this report to two email groups – to my ministry colleagues in the Vineyard, and to my community, family and friends (“prayer-partners” in the ministry that I do – often with my wife, Gill – on our trips to various places).

Gill and I were invited to lead a two-day silent retreat for Sam Kisten’s church (Chatsworth Vineyard). There were 23 people – 4 or 5 being from one or two other churches. It was held at the Marian Hill Retreat Center outside Pinetown, near Durban – a lovely place.

Marian Hill was started in the mid to late 1800s by an Austrian Catholic missionary-priest, as a mission to the Zulus. It evolved into a Trappist monastery – a silent order. It is now a sprawling development with many building, facilities and aspects of ministry, one of them being a large retreat center to serve the broader church. It is very well priced and well worth a visit for a personal or group retreat (I must learn to take some pics of these places so that I can include them here in my reports!!!)

It was a great honour and privilege for Gill and I to lead a silent retreat for a Vineyard church!! It was a first for all of the participants. We have different pictures/ideas that arise in our heads when we hear “silent retreat”.  Anyway, it was not as you may think. We took the theme of “Introduction to Christian Retreat” and built meditation exercises around the key aspects of any classic Christian retreat: Solitude and Silence, Rest and Renewal, Meditation and Prayer. The purpose was to introduce the participants to the experience (first and foremost) and the understanding of authentic Christian retreat, so that they can then continue a journey – now with a clear frame of reference – of taking periodic personal retreats. And some of the leaders who are given to the “inner work” of the soul, can also use this experience and these materials to begin introducing others to retreat.

Each session had a brief verbal input with some practical exercises (entering into silence) and a meditation handout-sheet, which the participants worked with for 1 to 3 hours. Then we had times of feedback and sharing what God was saying and doing with those who wanted to share. We ended on the Friday with worship and breaking of bread – it was pregnant with God’s presence – tears and “God-stuff” flowing freely!! In fact, almost every sharing time ended in tears for some! It was evident that God did a deep work of bringing people to stillness, of some healing, peace, rest, instruction, calling, guidance, etc – they all in their own way testified to this.  The beauty of this kind of experience is that people experience God for themselves as they work with the Word, with God in prayer, with their hearts and lives in the stillness of his presence.

On the Sunday I preached in the Chatsworth Vineyard. The worship was heavenly! It’s a healthy strong church. I felt God led me to preach on “A Call to Prayer – which is a call to the Desert, to Warfare, to Spiritual Growth”. I took a quote from Evagrios the Solitary (345-399 AD, a hermit in the Egyptian desert), who wrote 200 tacks on prayer. He began with, “First of all, pray for the gift of tears so that through sorrowing you may tame what is savage in your soul”. I find that profound, unnerving, terrorizingly true! I don’t know about you, but I know me, and there is a savage in me that needs to be tamed by God’s Spirit of Love. The word “sorrowing” is a favorite Greek word used by the Desert Fathers, penthos, which means a deep mourning for one’s true condition before God as a sinner, captured in “The Jesus Prayer” which they used incessantly: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Anyway, I spoke on Jesus’ baptism and his conferred identity from Father, “you are my Son, my Beloved”, which was immediately tested by the devil in the 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert…. “if you are the Son of God, then….” When we truly begin to pray we enter a desert where demons manifest and test our identity as God’s beloved. This is how we learn to defeat evil by God’s Word and grow into our true identity as beloved children of the Father. I called people who wanted to respond by saying, “God, I want to get intentional about prayer in my life, and truly begin to seek your face”. Most of the church came up and knelt down, and many wept.

Pray for us, because Samuel kinda prophesied at the end of the retreat, and at his church on the Sunday, that God will use us to raise an army of people who know the spirituality of retreat & silence, of growth & character transformation. The whole area of Christian spirituality and spiritual growth has to be built into God’s people (especially the Vineyard!!) Here am I Lord, send me! So pray for us as we do more of this, and as I continue to write the book “Doing Spirituality”

And once again, this report is to say thanks for praying, because it makes all the difference – we cannot do this alone – we are an extension of you!