Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Deep people make disciples (Page 1 of 5)

January 13, 2019 — We are being converted into new creations.

Conversion on the Way to Damascus — Caravaggio (circa 1600-1601)

Today’s Bible reading  and an excerpt 

Read Acts 9:1-19

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

More thoughts for meditation

Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus is probably the most famous conversion story in the New Testament. He undergoes a radical change in how he sees himself from a zealous persecutor of first believers to one of their most devoted leaders, a servant of the church.

His conversion starts when he is knocked off his horse and left blind. He ends up with a new name and a new job and a whole new life. In his helpless state of blindness, he asks the central question that we’ve been working with in the last few daily prayer entries: “Who are You, Lord?” He discovers that he had it wrong about Jesus and the only way to see is to turn away from his former view of himself and to take on a new life as a servant of Jesus. He later reflects on all this and writes that anyone who belongs to Christ becomes “a new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5 and Galatians 6). Jesus calls us to this conversion – a new view of self as a new person belonging to God.

Suggestions for action

Pray:  Lord, it is so easy to fool myself about myself. Draw me to the truth that sets me free. Help me offer all of me to You and allow You to make me new and give me a new view of myself. When I slip back into old views of who I should be or am, please knock me off course, restore my vision and remind me I belong to You.

Return to our practice of Francis’ prayer, “O God, who are You and who am I?” Take 10 minutes now to let go of the tasks that press in upon your mind and the worries that might lurk in the corners of your mind. Let the Spirit of the Living God renew your vision of what’s important.

One of the important things Jesus will likely reveal is that he continues to seek people to “knock off their horses.” You might be used for that, too! Deep people make disciples.

January 12, 2019 — I have the safety to see myself truthfully.

Image result for hypocrite pharisee

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt   

Read Matthew 23:1-18

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

More thoughts for meditation

Yesterday, we looked at how Jesus offered Martha a new view of herself. He offers the Pharisees a new view of themselves, too.  From this religious “party” many teachers and leaders arose in the time of Jesus. They saw themselves as righteous before the Law of Moses, and this resulted in their tendency to make a show of their religious practice.  They are stuck putting on a show all the time because they have this view of themselves with its resulting need to look as good as they expect themselves to be.

It is easy to see the Pharisees as the villains of the New Testament. They do get it wrong. But we miss an important warning from Jesus to all of us if we simply categorize them as villains. They are caught in religious practices that blind them to the truth of their own real needs. Their religious practices have a lot to do with how they see themselves as securing a position in their world by making and keeping laws. They are do-it-right-ers. They miss God standing right in front of them offering abundant life. Their rigid view of right/wrong and of God as a right/wronger blinds them. They can’t let go of their rules and this toxic view of themselves as people who are gifted and righteous.

Our religion can become a trap if we let ourselves get stuck in a limited view of ourselves and God. Our religious practice can’t be about being right or about living out our own rules. The Pharisees got stuck with a show instead of a real relationship with God. They were lost in their own performance of themselves.

Suggestions for action

Pray:  Help me see where I serve myself and my own rules of right/wrong instead of serving You, O God. Search me and know me and if there are twisted ways that I see myself or You, please change my heart so I see You and worship in Spirit and truth.

We were praying Francis of Assisi’s breath prayer yesterday, “O God, who are You and who am I?” Pray this prayer slowly again today. Take a slow walk in your neighborhood and pray this little prayer with every step.

If you are brave enough and have a close enough friend, ask them where they think you might be seeing yourself innaccurately. Our friends often know these things about us, but they don’t like to say anything — they know such revelation hurts others as much as they fear the truth hurting them! The question, “Where you you think I might have blinders on? What do you think I don’t like to see about myself, others or the world?”

January 11, 2019 — I am responsible first to how Jesus directs me.


'Christ in the House of Martha and Mary', Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary — Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Luke 10:38-42

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

More thoughts for meditation

In this famous story, Martha looks to Jesus to get her sister Mary to help with all the chores needed to provide for Jesus and the others gathered in her house to hear him teach. Mary is absorbed by Jesus’ teaching and doesn’t leave his side.  Martha is absorbed in the details of getting a big meal prepared.

Jesus’ statement to Martha is remarkable, not because of the sting Martha experiences when Jesus notes Mary’s choice is better. The comparison between Mary and Martha has been too often used. We’ll miss a significant element of Jesus’ interaction if we reduce the meaning to that. Jesus’ reply to Martha’s demand for fairness is remarkable because he offers Martha an entirely new way to view herself and surprises her by defying her expectation of fairness.  It’s important to remember the good that Martha brought to her house. She invites Jesus, after all, and is trying to carry out what she sees as her responsibilities as a result of her own invitation. She expects her sister Mary to help and argues that Mary is being unfair to her by sitting with Jesus.

Jesus wants Martha to see more deeply into the heart of his teaching.  See if this additional interpreation resonates with you. Jesus could have also been saying (and surely does to us today): “You are women, but you must not settle for old ways of viewing yourself and your role in the world. You must know that you, too, deserve a place within my company of followers where you can hear all I have to say. You are important. You are welcome to learn and grow along with everyone else. The responsibilities that once defined how your days would be spent can be set aside as you learn from me.”

Suggestions for action

Pray:  Set me free from my own narrow view of myself and what I can and cannot do. Help me live openly in Your presence and decide what to do by listening carefully to You rather than to my list of responsibilities and details that cause me to miss what You are doing.

Try using the breath prayer that Francis of Assisi used: “O God, who are You and who am I?” Say it slowly and repeatedly, opening your heart to God.

Consider how you accept responsibility. Do you mainly follow the demands of society or systems (like your family or work), or does Jesus get to direct you first, so other responsibilities can fall in behind primary direction?

January 10, 2019 — Criticism does not need to lead me.

Ninety Nine — Jessica Peterson

Today’s Bible reading  and an excerpt

Read Romans 14:1-13

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

More thoughts for meditation

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 27-28:

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man [sic] who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own laws, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”

Bonhoeffer has an idea of “visionaries” that does not include our sense of group discernment or revelation. We long for visions and dreaming, but we dread coercion and self-centeredness. Judgment that comes in the disguise of vision is deadly! Whatever leads us must come from love and listening, not from personal desire and lust for power.

Suggestions for action

Pray:  God, please save me from my misshapen ideals that cause me to criticize others and eventually to criticize You and myself. May I bow only to You and align myself with you today.

Make a list as you go through your day of the things you think or say in criticism of others. The driver ahead of you on the expressway, the tired mother interacting harshly with her child on the sidewalk, someone in your cell who wants to tell a long story, a roommate who leaves their dirty dishes behind. Look at your list, and ask God to help you see what is under your irritation. Get personal with God about the longings and fears (and yes, sins) that linger there hidden in your irritation. Pray for the person who irritated you. Let the Spirit of God lift you out of the despair that criticism creates inside us.

« Older posts