Daily Prayer :: Wind

First steps on the journey of faith and community

September 24 — Sail with the great sailors in God’s navy

We are called to move with what the Spirit is doing next
Following the Spirit is risky business, calm seas do not make good sailors.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 2 Corinthians 11:12-33

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move….Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

More thoughts for meditation

A good sailor in the Lord’s navy moves with what the Spirit is doing next. Like Paul, they are “constantly  on the move” and constantly moved by their concern for everyone. Even though these demands point out how weak they are, the demands also prove how they are strong in faith and in the power God provides. If we never get into stormy seas, we never become good sailors.

Some of our notable spiritual ancestors proved our proverb quite literally. Francis of Assisi followed the example of Paul and took to the sea to advance his mission. He was inspired to move and ended up in Egypt in the middle of the storm of the Fifth, disastrous Crusade!

The story goes that at the famous second general chapter (May, 1219) Francis assigned a separate mission to each of his foremost disciples, He appointed himself the mission of bringing the Gospel to the war between the crusaders and the Saracens. With eleven companions he set sail for Saint-Jean d’Acre. He was present at the siege and taking of Damietta.

Francis preached in Egypt to the not-so-“Christian” Crusaders waiting outside Damietta’s walls ready to massacre the inhabitants, acting gluttonously and dissolutely. He was disgusted and turned away from them. Francis went through enemy lines into the Saracen camp, where he was taken prisoner and led before the sultan, Malik-al-Kamil. According to the testimony of Jacques de Vitry, who was with the crusaders at Damietta, the sultan received Francis with courtesy.

Bonaventure, in his Major Life of St. Francis, described the meeting, “The sultan asked them by whom and why and in what capacity they had been sent, and how they got there; but Francis replied that they had been sent by God, not by men, to show him and his subjects the way of salvation and proclaim the truth of the Gospel message. When the sultan saw his enthusiasm and courage, he listened to him willingly and pressed him to stay with him.”

Francis’ enthusiastic desire to share his good news with the Sultan, without insulting Islam or refuting Mohammed, was unique and disarming. In the encounter between them, both Francis and the Sultan were changed. When Francis finally left to return to Italy, the Sultan showered him with many gifts. Because he had no interest in treasure, Francis refused them all, except for one special item: an ivory horn used by a muezzin to call the faithful to prayer. On his return, Francis used it to call people together for prayer or for preaching.

For another inspiring sailor, remember Brendan the Navigator, the hero of what is probably the “best-seller” of the entire Middle Ages.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Pilot me, Savior, through stormy or calm seas.

What is the stormy sea you are facing? It could be interior: anxiety, fear, loss. It could be exterior: finances, violence, broken relationships. You may be doing all you can to calm that sea. May Jesus say, “Peace be still.”

Even if our stormy sea is not calmed, we can receive the Lord’s peace and gain strength to serve by enduring the threat with trust, just like Paul did on his way to Rome, like Francis did in the middle of a siege, like Brendan did in a leather-made coracle. The Lord needs partners who do not fear storms any more than He does. The whole nation, even the world, seems to be entering a time of unimagined storms. May you become a better sailor as you welcome the peace of Christ into difficult circumstances.

September 23 — Grow disciples naturally

We are called to move with what the Spirit is doing next
Like any healthy organism, we grow. So we are always preparing to birth a new cell, plant the next congregation and generate the next venture of compassionate service.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-13

[B]e strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

More thoughts to ponder

Let’s not be deluded. The United States speaks the language of business, so every time we hear “growth” we have a deep understanding of “market share” and “profit” and “gross national product.” But when we use the word, we are not using the capitalist idea of “growth.” We mustn’t let our words get stolen.

We are not a business, even though we can do some good business, we are the body of Christ. Our growth is a natural feature of being alive in the Spirit. We are instinctively determined to reproduce. So we talk about how we are growing all the time, just like any of our aunts might see us and say, “Well, look how you have grown!”

This is an excerpt from one of the resource pages in “Fire” on the Way of Jesus site that talks about reproducing disciples and so, growing in number as the church. The author wants everyone to get back to an organic expression of the church so we make disciples in everyday life, not in “school:”

Jesus didn’t explain in advance everything His disciples would need to know; instead He gave them His Holy Spirit to continue their training after His departure (John 16:13). With the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowering, the disciples then trained others to follow Jesus just as He had trained them—through modeling, practice, transparency and discussion.

Consider these essential components of what Jesus gave the disciples:

• Being a living example of what complete obedience looks like.
• Real time training in working alongside the Holy Spirit.
• Guided experience to develop appropriate skills.
• Group obedience to overcome individual hesitance.
• Clear assignments, feedback and correction.
• An example of empowering disciples to make other disciples.

The Church in Acts had no written record of Jesus’ teachings, and Jesus drew others to Himself so quickly that there were soon too many followers for most to have direct contact with the Twelve. Yet despite the unavailability of the tools we depend on today, explosive growth continued as Jesus-followers received Spirit-led ministry from one another in small groups (1 Cor. 14:26). This reproducible group process resulted in multiplying, Spirit-led, loving obedience to Jesus which rapidly drew yet others to follow Him.

Circle of Hope thrives, or not, if we maintain that organic sense of who we are and let the Holy Spirit cause our growth. It is very tempting to give up and let ourselves be re-colonized by people who control us with procedure and hierarchy in order to manage the “disciples” we’ve got. We are resisting that temptation.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Make me strong in your grace. Empower me to entrust others with the life with which I am entrusted.

Why don’t you read the 2 Timothy passage again and read it like it is not “the Bible,” but is a tool Paul gave his disciple Timothy, who was learning to follow Jesus on-the-job?

Who is one of your disciples (or the closest thing you’ve got)? What if you were writing them a letter to encourage their faith? What would you write? Maybe you should write it and give it to them. They might like being taken so seriously.

September 22 — The past gives us tools for building now.

We are called to move with what the Spirit is doing next.
We intend to keep all the great things God has given through the church of the past and be totally at home in our own time, ready and able to relate to the people of our day.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt 

Read 1 John 4:1-15

My loved ones, I warn you: do not trust every spirit. Instead, examine them carefully to determine if they come from God, because the corrupt world is filled with the voices of many false prophets. Here is how you know God’s Spirit: if a spirit affirms the truth that Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, has come in human flesh, then that spirit is from God. If a spirit does not affirm the true nature of Jesus the Anointed, then that spirit does not come from God and is, in fact, the spirit of the antiChrist.

More thoughts for meditation

Our mapping process will come around again next May, It is a deliberate, visible way we take the scripture from 1 John very seriously. We fully expect every person, cell and team to test the spirits. As evaluations are made and new direction is suggested, we expect that our process will lead to real confidence that the Spirit is guiding us into what is next.

We bring that same sense of confident discernment and loving dialogue to our place in the transhistorical Church. We are discerning the Spirit in our spiritual ancestors. We want to sort out the genius of all the movements of the Spirit since the Church began and take those good gifts with us into the future. We also want to discard what is finished or misguided from the church’s past (and ours!), repent, and move on. This discernment takes some skill. John’s initiative in writing his letter implies that he thinks he has the skill and others need to benefit from that.

John’s Church did not have highly-educated leaders expositing a collection of writings (now called the Bible), which were interpreted by further writings stretching over hundreds of years. Most of the people he wrote to had to depend on others to read what he wrote to them! He assumed people would need to learn how to distinguish truth and falsehood spiritually and relationally, not by mere argument. He presumed the Spirit of God would be present to make Jesus known and to reveal the truth.

Many of us use the world’s methods to discern spiritual things. It does not work out too well. Sometimes we are disappointed with the Bible before we have even listened to it. Some of us have adopted a cultural Christianity that has more to do with our parents than Jesus, is more about a social system than a mission. As a result, we reap the fruit of our methods and systems instead of discerning and following the Spirit. A harvest of worldly thinking does not make us free to follow Jesus, but it often gets us stuck defending something fruitless!

It is quite an art form, isn’t it, to fully receive the gifts of what has gone before, yet be totally at home with one’s own application of it all in the present! That’s our goal; to be confident in the Lord right now, surrounded by the cloud of witnesses who have gone before and helped lead our way. We are part of a transhistorical body, an eternal fellowship of all Jesus followers.

Suggestions for action

Pray: May your Spirit, Christ, be clearly seen in me today.

First of all, affirm “the truth that Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, has come in human flesh.”

Second, consider how you decide what is true. Do you test the spirits to see if they are from God? When you discuss the future direction of Circle of Hope, are you serious enough to discern rather than just react out of your own feelings and experiences? Try discerning.

Third, consider your own flexibility and ours. Are we all ready and able to relate to the people of our day, or would be be more comfortable twenty years ago? That might be a good question for your cell.

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