Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Author: Circle of Hope (Page 2 of 577)

June 24, 2022 — The “P” Series – PROCESS

Today’s Bible reading

John 11:  17-23 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 More thoughts for meditation

It’s interesting to see how the story of Lazarus goes down. He is ill, Jesus decides to wait a few days, but by the time he arrives, Lazarus is dead. The sisters Mary and Martha are crying and mourning. Jesus weeps.

Even though we know what happens at the end of the story, the feelings Mary, Martha and Jesus felt were very real. For a week Mary and Martha were struggling: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”   When we face situations in life, our minds automatically turn to reason to fill the gap and ease the pain we are feeling. We want to understand what’s happening and why. The problem with reason is that it offers us false comfort.

The process then, is a series of steps that take us from where we are now to where God wants us to be. We could be waiting to find a spouse, or to find a job that we want. Or go through a divorce, like I did. We want God to rescue us from this situation and we go to Him for a solution when we should be going to God for a relationship. In order to make it out from that valley, we must go through the process of standing with God, letting Him work through us, no matter what is working against us. This is called abiding.

This is the process that makes us rich, and it makes us stronger and more powerful than the enemy. This process, this season, is where we learn to trust God and grow in our faith.

 Suggestions for action

Prayer: Holy Spirit, give us patience and strength to stand with you while we are going through the process of waiting for relief.

June 23, 2022 — The “P” Series – PURPOSE

Today’s Bible reading

Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

More thoughts for meditation

How many times have we created plans for our lives that have not come to pass, or life has taken us to a different direction altogether?    I can’t count the number of times I decided to change careers when I was a child. In the end, I decided to seek medicine as my career. But alas! God had other plans, and I found myself in an accounting career instead.

Did I miss my purpose to be a doctor? How can I use my accounting skills to achieve my purpose? Heck, what IS my purpose?

A few months ago, I watched the Pixar film, Soul. It is about a man who is bored with his current life as a music teacher and dreams of achieving his dream career: to perform in front of an audience. But he is so engrossed in the pursuit of his dream that he misses out on what is going on around him. The character in the movie Moonwind described it best, “Lost souls are obsessed by something that disconnects them from life.”

It made me think of the countless times I have missed out on those small moments in my life where I could have been present, but chose to be disconnected through career, working, seeking greatness and seeking other false comforts, thinking that they were all part of my purpose. And I did this to run away from my pain. But God didn’t create us to live life on our terms through our careers, and goal setting.  He created us to live life on its own terms.

Our purpose then, is to be enough to be ourselves. To just be who we are, because even after we achieve the successes that we were looking for, we will still not feel satisfied.

Truth is, nothing will feel satisfying, except for living life and living in the present at all times.

Suggestions for action

Prayer:  Holy Spirit teach us how to be enough to be ourselves and live life according to your purpose and not ours. Show us how no matter all the plans we make, only your purpose is the only one that prevails.

June 27, 2022 – The Sin of Certainty

We’re praying through Pete Enns’ Sin of Certainty (HarperCollins, 2016). It is a book that considers “certainty” for the faithful Christian an idol. Pete shares his story and tries to relate it to his readers, who he hopes can mature and hold onto their faith as they grow older. It is a great book for the Water Daily Prayer reader. I will mainly offer you excerpts of the text and reflections thereafter.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Exodus 32:30-35

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

More thoughts for meditation

“Preoccupation with correct thinking… it reduces the life of faith to a sentry duty, a 24/7 task of pacing the ramparts and scanning the horizon to fend off incorrect thinking, in ourselves and others, too engrossed to come inside the halls and enjoy the banquet. A faith like that is stressful and tedious to maintain. Moving toward different ways of thinking, even just trying it on for a while to see how it fits, is perceived as a compromise to faith, or as giving up on faith altogether. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Aligning faith in God and certainty about what we believe and needing to be right in order to maintain a healthy faith—these do not make for a healthy faith in God. In a nutshell, that is the problem. And that is what I mean by the ‘sin of certainty.’

It is sin because this pattern of thinking sells God short by keeping the Creator captive to what we are able to comprehend—which is the very same problem the Israelites had then they were tempted to make images of God (aka idols) out of stone, meta, or wood…

We don’t make physical images of God. But we make mental ones.

I don’t mean that our thoughts of God are no different than images of wood and stone. The images we read about in the Bible always limit God, because they confuse the Creator with creation. Thoughts about God, on the other hand, are not only often helpful but downright inevitable. When we confuse God with our thoughts about God, however, those thoughts can become idol-like—getting in the way of the real thing, hindering rather than aiding a life of faith.

When we grab hold of ‘correct’ thinking for dear life, when we refuse to let go because we think that doing so means letting go of God, when we dig in our heels and stay firmly planted even when we sense that we need to let go and move on, at that point we are trusting our thoughts rather than God. We have turned away from God’s invitation to trust in order to cling to an idol.

The need for certainty is sin because it works off fear and limits God to our mental images. And God does not like being boxed in. By definition, God can’t be. I believe we are prone to forget that. God is good to remind us—by any means necessary, if we are willing to listen. God understands our human predicament and is for us” (Pete Enns, Sin of Certainty, HarperCollins, 2016, p. 18-19).

Suggestions for action

It takes a lot of faith to be able to let go of the idea of certainty of God’s invitation to love. Consider the mystery of God in meditation today. As you consider God, empty your mind with a prayer word and breathing. See if you can sustain a moment where you feel close to God without “thinking” about God.

Enns is talking to people who have made their thoughts about God into idols. You may be coming from the exact opposite place where you assume nothing can be certain and you long for some assurance God is there and with you in Jesus. Solidifying your doubt or securing your certainty are other other sides of the “sin of certainty.” Maybe you need to doubt your doubt instead.

Today is the MLK national holiday. It is one of two days the nation celebrates that we think should intersect with the Christian calendar. Check out our thoughts at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

June 22, 2022 — The “P” Series – PERFECTIONISM

Today’s Bible reading

Romans 8:15 – For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

 More thoughts for meditation

Perfectionism can be exhausting and cause us to become slaves to it. It can keep us up all night reminding us of everything that has to be done, or that we haven’t done enough as parents, spouses, siblings, etc., or that we have once again disappointed others, and that we are not good enough. Someone once said that “there’s a straight line between hypersensitivity and perfectionism” and I believe there is some truth to this.

It would make sense that those of us who tend to be sensitive to criticism want to be perfect, blameless or flawless. We become critical of ourselves instead of practicing self-compassion. Western culture doesn’t make it easier for us, either; we get sucked into key performance indicators and end up experiencing burnout. Becoming slaves to perfectionism not only exhausts us but it blocks us from living freely and with hope. If left unchecked, even going through a self-help-book as a way out of our problems can be considered an area of perfectionism.

Suggestions for action

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, show us an area where we have become slaves to the “self-worth -> fear -> perfectionism” cycle and helps us lay it down at your feet.

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