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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

disciple, wednesday

Wednesday, September 30

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, there are so many things and people and demands that are pressing on our lives these days that at times we can lose track of the fact that what life is really all about is “walking in a way that pleases you.”  Help us to remember that today.  And help us to walk deeply with you.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1

Journal: What occupies most of your time and attention these days?  What are you “doing so more and more?”  Is that leading toward Jesus?  What does it mean for you—specifically, in your life right now—to walk in a way that pleases Jesus?

Authentic transformation is possible if we are willing to do one thing and that is to arrange our lives around the kind of practices and life Jesus led to be constantly receiving power and love from the Father. (The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard)


Closing Prayer: Lord, you will have to be our teacher, because the dignity has been drained out of us in so many ways.  We have been treated like dirt, and that has stuck on us.  We’ve put ourselves against standards of our own making, because we thought it would give us worth.  Please touch each person with how unique they are in your eyes and how their dignity in your eyes is so great that you will not even override them; you will woo them and pursue them and help them to accept that you are seeking them and you will allow yourself to be found by them if they simply cry out for help.  I pray that great freedom will come across them because of their awareness of where they stand in your kingdom.  That will make Jesus very happy, and the angels in heaven will jump up and down.  And so we say, “Let it be so,” and that’s what we mean by amen.  Amen. (Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

disciple, tuesday

Tuesday, September 29

Opening Prayer: I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need: the wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.
     Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort me and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in the hearts of all that love me, Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger.
     I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three, of Whom all nature hath creation; Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen. ~St. Patrick

Scripture: Colossians 2:6-7

Journal: What is God growing in you these days?  How well is it taking root within you?  What does it look like to continue to “walk in” it?

     Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.  To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating.
     There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide, I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything! (Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke)


Closing Prayer: God, go with us.  Help us to be an honor to the church.  Give us the grace to follow Christ’s word, to be clear in our task and careful in our speech.  Give us open hands and joyful hearts.  Let Christ be on our lips.  May our lives reflect a love of truth and compassion.  Let no one come to us and go away sad.  May we offer hope to the poor, and solace to the disheartened.  Let us so walk before God’s people, that those who follow us might come into his kingdom.  Let us sow living seeds, words that are quick with life, that faith may be the harvest in people’s hearts.  In word and in example let your light shine in the dark like the morning star.  Do not allow the wealth of the world or its enchantment flatter us into silence as to your truth.  Do not permit the powerful, or judges, or our dearest friends to keep us from professing what is right.  Amen. (Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans)

Monday, September 28, 2015

disciple, monday

Monday, September 28

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, make us your disciples, that we may make disciples by your grace and power.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

Journal: What is the relationship between being a disciple and making disciples?  How are both processes going in your life and ministry these days?

     It is to a group of disciples that we now turn in the second passage, right at the end of the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 28:18-20).  It is called the Great Commission, but when you look at it closely, you might want to call it the Great Omission, because what Jesus said to do here is rarely done.
     Here is what Jesus is saying: I have been given say over everything in heaven and on earth.  As you go, make disciples.  Immerse them together in the presence of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Yes, baptize them in the name, but, dear friends, that doesn’t just mean getting them wet while you say those names.  It means to immerse them in Reality.  After you have done that, teach them in a way that they actually do what Jesus said.  That is the process of spiritual formation.  And what comes out at the end is the joy of living in the easy yoke, for you find that to do what Jesus said is the easy and strong way to live forever and in time.
     Look at those passages again.  First, Jesus said, “I have been given all authority.”  In other words, “I have been given say over everything.”  We are not sent out without equipment.  We are sent out with all the equipment we can possibly use, and as we go, we make disciples.
     I think the best way of translating this is “As you go, make disciple.”  This presents making disciples as a kind of side effect, and that is really important to understand in relation to making disciples.  In life, some things that can be pulled cannot be pushed, and some things that can be pushed cannot be pulled.  Making disciples is a matter of pulling people, of drawing them in through who we are and what we say.
     Disciples are those who have been so ravished with Christ that others want to be like them.  Others look at those disciples’ life in the kingdom of God and they say, “This is the best thing I ever saw in my life.  I must have that.” (Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, so often we have heard the phrase, “It takes one to know one.”  Help us to know that in the case of discipleship, “It takes one to make one.”  How can we ever expect to make disciples—which is the mission you have called us to here on earth—if we are not disciples ourselves?  Help us, Lord Jesus, to be ravished by you.  Help us to become fully yours; that we might be fully a part of the work you have called us to do.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

disciple, sunday

Sunday, September 27

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, somewhere along the line we have lost sight of what you truly desire for us.  Somewhere along the line we have come to believe that all we need to do is raise a hand, or walk an aisle, or pray a prayer and you will be pleased.  But help us, Lord Jesus, to know that what you really want from us and for us is so much more than that.  What you really desire is that we follow you—wherever you lead, whatever you ask, whatever the cost.  Give us the courage and the strength to do that.  Amen.     

Scripture: Mark 8:34-38

Journal: What does it mean for you to be Jesus’ disciple?  How is he asking you to follow him these days?

     We are on the verge of a time when the church is going to be able to make some decisions.  For long periods in the history of the church, as in the history of Israel, there were no significant decisions that could have been made.  I think we have been through a pretty tough patch with the church, and I try never to criticize the church, because I know who is in charge of it.  But sometimes we need to be conscious of where we are coming from and where we are going.
     We are coming into a time when many churches and Christians who are in leadership positions will be able to say it’s all about discipleship and transformation into Christlikeness.  Now, if you read the New Testament, or even the Old Testament, you might have come to that conclusion already.  It is hard to avoid, but circumstances in history have a way of claiming us and not letting us see what’s actually happening.
     We have been through a period when the dominant theology simply had nothing to do with discipleship.  It had to do with proper belief, with God seeing to it that individuals didn’t go to the bad place, but to the good place.  But that developed in such a way that the predominant thought is that a person can have the worst character possible and still get into the good place if he believed the right thing.  This disconnection became increasingly burdensome to the church itself until we came to the point that, as is widely discussed, there is not a clear difference between Christians and those who aren’t Christians.
     Now, that is due partly to the fact that Christian teaching has thoroughly penetrated ordinary society.  Many people who are not part of the church and who are not followers of Christ by their own conscious intentions wind up living a kind of halfway, limp way of living out what Jesus taught and who he was.  And it is a familiar fact that the world likes to beat the church with the church’s own stick and to criticize it in terms of what Jesus himself taught.
     We have perhaps had enough of that, and there are indications that we are ready for a change.  That change will make a startling difference in our world, because Jesus’ intention for his people from the beginning, and indeed from long before that in God’s covenant relationship with the people of Israel, was world revolution.  If you read the Great Commission, you may not realize it is about world revolution.  If you think it is about planting churches, as important as that may be, if you think it is about evangelization, as that is often understood—no, no, it is about a world revolution promised through Abraham, come to life in Jesus and living on in his people up to today.  That is what our hearts hunger for, even when we don’t know how to approach it or how to go about it. (Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard)


Closing Prayer: May you experience grace—God acting in your life, in your thoughts, in your feelings, in your rest.  May his face shine upon you.  May his shining face lift up over you as you lie down, as you sleep, and give you the thoughts you need to have.  The blessing of the Trinity rest upon you and everything you are and do.  Let it be so.  Amen. (Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

home, saturday

Saturday, September 26

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that one day you will come back for us and take us home to be with you.  We are not too sure of the hows and wheres and whens of that coming, but we are sure that one day it will happen.  And since that great day will happen, let us live each day between now and then with the full knowledge that you, Lord Jesus, are our true home.  May we live our lives, both now and forever, with you.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Journal: How do these words encourage you?  How might they offer encouragement to others in your life and world?

     There are two realities to which you must cling.  First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for.  And second, God is faithful to that promise.
     So stop wandering around.  Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need.  Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire.  Now it is time to end that search.  Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love…Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.
     Home is where you are truly safe.  It is where you can receive what you desire.  You often need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again.  But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart (The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: O Waker of the Dead, awaken me.  Find the faith in my soul that’s as dead as night; find the hope in my heart that’s as dry as dust; find the love in my spirit that’s so fast asleep.  Peer beneath the shroud of my life and awaken me.
     Look deeply, Jesus.  Find the child there, find the dreamer there, find the lover there.  Awaken me.
     You’re the one who has conquered the grave, you’re the one who has tasted new life.  Help me die to the dying life, and be born to the life that never dies, by entering the mystery of your love right here, right now, today.  (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Friday, September 25, 2015

home, friday

Friday, September 25

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, may your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  It is all about your Kingdom and your rein, Lord Jesus.  Help us to never forget that.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Journal: What is our true home?  Do you see heaven as our home, or God as our home?  What is the difference?  How do these verses challenge you?  How do they comfort you?  How do they inspire you?  How do they change your thinking?

     The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in.  The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world:  but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God:  a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a swim or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. (The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, you who will one day redeem all things, in light of that redemption help us to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in your work, knowing that in you our labor is never in vain.  Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

home, thursday

Thursday, September 24

Opening Prayer: O Lord, our God, thank you for your word.  Thank you for the book of Revelation.  Thank you for the beauty and majesty of heaven, and that one day we will go there to be with you for all eternity.  Help us to keep heaven in our minds and hearts, that the vision of it might encourage us to live and love well on this earth—to be little “tastes of heaven” for all we come in contact with—and to yearn for our future home in a way that keeps us from getting too attached to the things of this world.  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 21:9-27

Journal: What do you dream heaven will be like?  How does that help you to live fully in the here and now?  How does that give you hope for the future?

     If our pictures of heaven are to move us, they must be moving pictures.  So go ahead—dream a little.  Use your imagination.  Picture the best possible ending to your story you can.  If that isn’t heaven, something better is.  When Paul says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9), he simply means we cannot out-dream God.  What is the end of our personal journeys?  Something beyond our wildest imagination.  (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)


Closing Prayer: Hallelujah!  The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong!  Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give him the glory!  The Marriage of the Lamb has come; his Wife has made herself ready.  She was given a bridal gown of bright and shining linen.  The linen is the righteousness of the saints. (Revelation 19:6-8, The Message)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

home, wednesday

Wednesday, September 23

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that because of your cross we are now able to join you in Paradise.  O how we long for that day.  Help that longing to be what guides our steps and our efforts this day for your Kingdom.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 23:32-43

Journal: Put yourself in the scene.  Imagine being each of the thieves.  As you see Jesus dying on the cross, what is your response?  What do his words “Today you will be with me in Paradise” do within you?

     Jesus called it Paradise.  The Greek word is paradeisos, which comes from a Persian word meaning a garden or well-watered preserve.  It is a place of beauty, a place of life, a place of abundance, a garden of both pleasure and delight.  The early church Fathers equated it to the place our first parents dwelt before the fall, yet not of this world but somehow above and beyond it.  That’s a pretty magnificent place. 
     But the place might not be the most magnificent part of what Jesus says.  For he goes on to say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  I think all too often we get caught up in the what of heaven and miss out on the who.  We get so sidetracked trying to imagine what heaven will be like that we miss the best part; we will be with Jesus—the Creator and Lover of our souls—for all eternity.  Therefore, it is Paradise not because of what is there, it is Paradise because of who is there. 


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you promise us Paradise—life with you forever.  Thank you that you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Thank you that you will quench our thirsty hearts and souls.  Thank you that you will give us drink from the wells of the water of life.  Thank you that we will be able to drink of you for all eternity.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

home, tuesday

Tuesday, September 22

Opening Prayer: O Lord, thank you that you rejoice over us with gladness because of your Son, our Savior, Jesus.  Quiet us, this day, with your love, O Lord, that we may hear the song of affection that you sing constantly over us.  Thank you that one day you will gather us and bring us home, that we might hear that song from your very lips for all eternity.  Amen.  

Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Journal: What do you think about a God who would sing over you?  Do you believe you are worth being sung over?  Do you believe that you bring deep joy to the heart of God?  Do you believe that he desires to spend all of eternity rejoicing over you in happy song?

     There are many great pictures of God’s great affection for us in the Bible, but maybe none sweeter than the one in Zephaniah 3:16-17.  It tells us that God is so delighted to be in relationship with us that it brings a song to his lips and joy to His heart.  Is that not INCREDIBLE!  The God of the universe is so pleased that we have come home to him that he bursts into song.  Eugene Peterson said it so well in The Message:

     “Cheer up!  Don’t be afraid!  For the Lord your God  
     has arrived to live among you.  He is a mighty savior.   
     He will rejoice over you with great gladness.  With his
     love, he will calm all your fears.  He will exult over
     you by singing a happy song.” (Zephaniah 3:16-17)

     Knowing him and following him is a lifelong process—one that is not easy and will not make all of our problems go away.  But it is, nonetheless, a process that offers us a real, loving, intimate relationship with the Living God—one that will bring a richness and a peace, a fullness and a depth to our lives that we never imagined.  One that is a foreshadowing, a tiny taste, of what it will be like for all eternity. (Beginnings by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: Lord God, give me ears to hear your heavenly song, that it might so capture me with love for you that it changes everything about the way I live my life, both in this world and the next.  Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2015

home, monday

Monday, September 21

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that one day you will make all things new.  Thank you that one day you will do away with sorrow and suffering and pain, and you yourself will dwell with us in joy for all eternity.  O how we long for that day.  O how we yearn to be home.  Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7

Journal: What are you longing to have made new these days?  What will it be like when every tear is wiped away?  Where and how are you longing for home these days?  What do you imagine it to be?

     John says someday God will wipe away your tears.  The same hands that stretched the heavens will touch your cheeks.  The same hands that formed the mountains will caress your face.  The same hands that curled in agony as the Roman spike cut through will someday cup your face and brush away your tears. Forever….
     I'll be home soon.  The plane will land.  I'll walk down the ramp and hear my name and see my children’s faces.  I'll be home soon. You'll be home soon, too.  You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before.  Each moment is a step taken.  Each breath is a page turned.  Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed.  You are closer to home than you've ever been.  Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you'll descend the ramp and enter the City.  You'll see the faces that are waiting for you.  And, maybe, just maybe—in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and applaud. (Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)


Closing Prayer: O Jesus, fountain of Eternal Life, your heart is a glowing furnace of Love.  You are my refuge and my sanctuary.  O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which yours is enflamed.  Pour out on my soul those graces which flow from your love.  Let my heart be united with yours.  Let my will be conformed to yours in all things.  May your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.  Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

home, sunday

Sunday, September 20

Opening Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus,
     Thank you that here and there you have shown me glimpses of heaven, however briefly.  Now and then you have sent me echoes of it, however faintly.  And that once in a while you have allowed it to touch me, however gently.  Those glimpses, those echoes, those touches have awakened my longing for home, and for each one of those awakenings, I thank you.
     Thank you that I have a room in your Father’s house.  A place just for me.  Thank you for all you have done to ready it for my arrival.  For all the longings that lead me there and for all the reminders that let me know that this is not my home, I thank you, O Lord.  Remind me often, for so often I forget, that the very best of homes here on earth is just a shadow of the home waiting for me in heaven. (Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire)

Scripture: John 13:31-14:4

Journal: How do you feel when you arrive home after a long and tiring journey?  What are the joys of being home?  How does it make you feel to know that Jesus has made a home for us with him?  How does it make you feel to know that he has prepared a place for you?  How does that help you with all that faces you today? 

     For now, our life is a journey of high stakes and frequent danger.  But we have turned the corner; the long years of exile are winding down as we are approaching home.  There is no longer any question as to whether we will make it and if it will be good when we get there.  “I am going to prepare a place for you,” Jesus promised.  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:2-3).
     One day soon we will round a bend in the road and our dreams will come true.  We really will live happily ever after.  The long years of exile will be swept away in the joyful tears of our arrival home.  Every day when we rise, we can tell ourselves, My journey today will bring me closer to home; it may be just around the bend.  All we long for we shall have; all we long to be, we will be.  All that has hurt us so deeply—the dragons and nits, the Arrows and false lovers, and Satan himself—they will all be swept away.
     Then real life begins.  (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that this world is not my home.  Thank you that you have a home prepared for me that is far more than I could ever ask for or imagine—more than I could dream about in my wildest dreams.  Thank you that one day you will take me there to be with you forever.  Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

rest, saturday

Saturday, September 19

Opening Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
     Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen. ~Reinhold Niebuhr

Scripture: Psalm 91:1-2

Journal: How does dwelling in God give rest to your soul?  How do you need God to be your refuge and fortress these days?  Your refuge from what?  How is that “storm” keeping you from resting in him? 

We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even on the spiritual—plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life. (The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill)

To want, to have, to do, or to be.  To which of these will the majority of my energy go today?  And which of them is really worth my energy and attention anyway?  I have a suspicion that unless all of the others (want, have, do) flow out of that deep inner place of being—particularly being with Jesus and being in Jesus—then all of them will amount to nothing of Kingdom value or Kingdom significance in the long run.  All must flow from that place where Jesus resides deep in my soul; call it dwelling, call it abiding, call it whatever you wish, but the bottom line is that it is all about being. 


Closing Prayer: Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.  The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.  Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. ~Psalm 116:5-7

Friday, September 18, 2015

rest, friday

Friday, September 18

Opening Prayer: Father God, I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty and yet overwhelmed by your love for me. I thank you that there is no human experience that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me. If I climb the highest mountain you are there and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life, you are there. Teach me today to love you more. Help me to rest in that love that asks nothing more than the simple trusting heart of a child. In Jesus name, Amen. ~anonymous

Scripture: Jeremiah 6:16

Journal: What words from Jeremiah 6:16 are you really drawn to?  Which ones are you resistant to?  How frequent are the practices of standing, looking, asking, and walking in your daily life with God?  How does that process enable you to find rest for your soul?  How and are you resistant to it?  Why?

     Within these 33 words of Jeremiah 6:16 is a wonderful pattern that shows us what it looks like to simply live one life with God--wherever we go, whoever we are with, whatever we do.  In fact, it is a pattern I have adopted over the past few years that seems to make good and fruitful space for the Spirit of God to speak and to lead and to guide in all areas of my life and ministry, if I will continually live from it.
     It all starts with stand.  In other words start by stopping.  Stand.  Be still.  Be present--fully present.  First to God within you, and then to God around you.  In other words, show up.  I believe it was Woody Allen that once said, "Eighty percent of life is just showing up."  Show up with God and show up with others.  That's where it all starts.
     Next comes look. Stand at the crossroads and look.  Pay attention.  Look for God.  Look deeply for him in whatever, or whoever, might be in front of you at the moment.  Look past the surface.  Look into the depths.  Search.  Seek.  Seek him in all things.
     Then comes ask.  Specifically, ask God.  Ask God, "What are you up? What are you up to within me?  What are you up to around me?  What are you up to in this particular circumstance?  What are you up to in the life of the person in front of me?  Ask.  Ask for the ancient paths.  The ancient paths are those well-worn paths that lead straight to the heart of God.  Those paths that multitudes of other saints, poets, and pilgrims have traveled well before us.  In fact, whenever we see someone walking deeply and intimately with God we need to take note because that person has found these ancient paths, and watching them can show us the way into the heart of God.  Solitude, silence, prayer, scripture, etc., these things, indeed, are a significant part of the good way. 
     And notice that, up until now, we still have not moved.  We are still in one place (stand, look, ask), seeking God's heart, mind, and direction.  And it is not an easy thing to do because our default mode of operation is movement.  Our norm is don't just stand there, do something.  We tend to operate (whether we like to admit it or not) out of a “ready, fire, aim" mentality.  Which, in all likelihood, leads to a significant amount of wasted motion.  Our default, it would seem, needs to change more to a “don't just do something, stand there” mindset.
     And finally, once we have stood and looked and asked, it is time to move.  Walk in it is the phrase Jeremiah uses.  Walk in the good way, whatever that may mean.  For, once we have received our direction and guidance from God, it is time to enter into whatever he is doing.  It is time to move toward him (and his work) whatever that may look like.  Sometimes it will mean speaking a word he has given us to speak and sometimes it will mean keeping our mouths shut.  Sometimes it will mean simply being present and sometimes it will mean reaching out to embrace.  But whatever it is, we can be sure of its power, substance, and authenticity because it has come directly from his heart and not merely our own.
     And the result of all of this is incredible: you will find rest for your souls.  No longer will we be exhausted and overwhelmed, but we will be energized and engaged by the winds of God's Spirit.  We will no longer be living a life divided into a million-and-one pieces, but a unified life that is filled peace because we are just trying to do the one thing—be totally his.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer: O Lord, our God, give us the courage to stand and to look and to ask and to walk, that we might be led completely by you—and find rest.  Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

rest, thursday

Thursday, September 17

Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that our salvation is not up to us.  Thank you that we can’t make it happen, but only you can.  It is all about your power working within us.  Thank you that all we need to do is return to you—not once, not twice, but always again.   And thank you that as we are faithful to return to you, you are faithful to give us rest in the finished work of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 30:15

Journal: What do you tend to rely on for your salvation?  How do you live with the sense that everything is up to you?  What is the effect of that in your life?  How does that keep you from being able to rest?  How do you need to return to God? 

     I made a realization not too long ago, and the more I think about it, the more significant it seems to be. It involves a shift deep within me, one that has to do with the age-old tension between doing and being. For most of my life—and even more so, honestly, in my Christian life—I have constantly felt the pressure to try and make things happen. It is a mode of operation (a way of thinking and believing) that is very subtle, and seems noble and right at first glance, but one that is incredibly deceptive and has an enormous effect on how you go about living your life, particularly your life with God. At its heart, it says: "Everything is up to me."
     But recently I have noticed a change, one that has shifted me from the pressure of doing to the freedom of being. A realization that I do not have to make things happen, in fact I cannot make anything of true value happen, that is all up to God. He is the One in charge of salvation and growth and transformation, not me. He is the One that causes the heart to change, the seed to grow.
     What I have noticed is that when I finally let go of the need to make things happen, somehow mysteriously (and miraculously) things just begin to. Things just come to be. These days I often find myself looking around in amazement and surprise at the fruitfulness and the beauty springing up all around me, as well as deep within me, and ask myself, "How did that happen?" It is simply extraordinary.
     So what are we to do, sit idly by and never do anything? Not at all. What we are to do is to try and learn the lesson God was trying to teach Israel in Isaiah 30. They were the same as us.  In Isaiah 30 they were under attack, their world filled with fear and chaos. But instead of turning to God, the One who knows them best and loves them most, the One who longs to save them, they panic.  They take matters into their own hands and run off in another direction altogether, trying to insure and secure their salvation. In fact, they turn to Egypt (of all places) and beg Pharaoh to come to their rescue. Because when it came right down to it, when they were desperate for something or someone to set their world right again, their true beliefs came out. Instead of turning to God, they tried to make things happen for themselves.
     So God came to them and reminded them of what life with him is really all about. Your salvation will be found in returning and rest. Don't try to take matters into your own hands, don't carry out plans that are not mine (Isaiah 30:1). Turn back to me: once, twice, and always again. For when you turn (or return) to me, you will find rest, because I am the Sovereign God, the only One that can truly save you, the only One worthy of your trust. Find your rest in me, trust quietly in Me, for I am in control.
     So a shift is required, in them and in us. A shift very much like my own. A shift from trying to make things happen to turning constantly to God and trusting Him to work and to act. A shift that helps us begin to understand that the significant elements of life with our God are not do this and do that, but returning and rest, quietness and trust. Those are the bricks to build our spiritual house (lives) out of. Because when you turn constantly to me, I will be the One to make things happen...like you never imagined.  So don't just do something, stand there. (Pieces II by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me—the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. (The Message)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

rest, wednesday

Wednesday, September 16

Opening Prayer: Set our hearts at rest in your presence, O God, that we might live in quietness and trust forever.  May your righteousness offer us peace and confidence, and enable us to abide with you in the secure dwellings you promise for your people.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 32:16-18

Journal: What is the relationship between righteousness, peace, and rest?  Are those three things part of your current inner reality?  Why do you say that?  Can you rest in the righteousness of Jesus?

     I can never fully rest in Jesus if I am constantly trying to fill my soul with the affirmation and admiration of others.  It will wear me down and wear me out.  Rest only comes when I am not dancing for others anymore, not jockeying for position in their hearts and minds.  Rest only comes when, by God's grace and power, the chains are broken that bind me to the care of what others think and say, and I am able to fully attach myself (my value and my worth) to him, and him alone.  Only then can I truly rest.  And only then can I truly love.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is not what I do that gives me rest, but who you are.  Help me to always remember that.  It is your righteousness that gives me peace.  It is your righteousness that offers me quietness and trust.  It is your righteousness that offers me rest.  Thank you!  Amen.