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Holy Spirit | Discipleship Prayer Day 4

Holy Spirit — Our Strength, our Comfort, our Helper and Guide.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

―  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

“Holy Spirit…Our Strength…”

By the power and strength of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we become new creatures (2 Cor 5:17)—a new kind of person—in Christ, We can overflow with hope as we walk through life with the Holy Spirit as our:

“Our Comfort”

 Who doesn’t need a little comfort and encouragement once in a while?

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is parakletos – helper, comforter, and the one called to be by one’s side.  The God of all compassion and comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4) has sent this parakletos to us (Jn 14:26), to set us free (2 Cor 3:17) and fill our hearts with God’s perfect love (Rom 5:5) as we move through this life facing difficulties of many kinds.

“Our Helper”

Hey, can I get a little help over here?

The parakletos – also meaning advocate – has been sent to us from the Father by Christ (Jn 15:26) to help us in our weakness and intercede for us when we don’t know what to do or say (Rom 8:26-27), to give us the power and boldness we need to be faithful witnesses of Christ in word and deed (Ac 1:8), and to be by our side forever, helping us to know and understand truth (Jn 14:15-17)

“Our Guide”

I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. Anybody got a map?

The Holy Spirit is given as our teacher and guide, making known to us all that Christ has revealed (Jn 16:13).  The Spirit of God, sent by the Heavenly Father teach us from the Scriptures, the written word of God – rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) – while also reminding us of all that we have seen, heard, and witnessed from the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

The power of the Holy Spirit, working in us as comforter, helper, and guide, transforms us into powerful witnesses to God’s love and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Ac 1:8), taking us to places we might never have dreamed of going and overflowing with an unrelenting, optimistic hope that comes only by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

―  Romans 8:15 (NLT)



→ If I must err, let it be in the direction of love… 

 

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Faith over Fear?

white goat kid on grass

A lot is made about things like “faith over fear” or “faith greater than fear,” but a Christlike ethic is not defined by such a dichotomy.

The way, truth, and life as expressed, and lived out, by Christ and the apostles centered around faith expressing itself through love as the only thing that counts (Gal 5:6). Faith expressing itself through love:
  • lowers itself and puts the needs of others first (Gal 5:6, Phil 2:3, and many more);
  • gives respect and honor to those in authority (Rom 13, 1 Peter 2, and more);
  • surrenders ones rights for the sake of others (1 Cor 8-9 and more);
Most importantly, a Christlike ethic is centered around, and grounded deeply in, love of God and neighbor (Luke 12:30-31, 1 John 2:6, 1 Cor 16:13-14, and many, many, many more). All of these things, and more, are what is meant by carrying ones cross, washing people’s feet, and living a self-sacrificial lifestyle. (Luke 9:24, Matt 16:24-26, John 13, and more).

“What does love require of me?” is a question we need to ask ourselves constantly.

Faith over fear

It is interesting that so many Christian’s seem to demean others by calling them sheep. Jesus taught that sheep know the voice of their shepherd. If we recognize the voice of our Shepherd then we, as sheep, will follow that voice….we will live that kind of life…and grow in Christlikeness as we move through life.
The “do what is right in my own eyes” philosophy was the primary condemning attribute of the “bad” kings of Israel and, it seems clear, is an anti-Christlike mode of operation. It is NOT a Christlike way of living, because it:
  • exalts self and puts the need of other secondary, at best;
  • demands ones rights over and above the welfare of others;
  • resists the uncomfortableness of the cross and the wash basin;

Faith over Fear is not the fulcrum of our decision making. Love is.

Faith expressed through love, makes us free to love others without fear, because love drives out fear, allowing us the freedom to love openly, unapologetically, and without limit.
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Jesus Christ | Discipleship Prayer Day 3

Jesus ChristMessiah, Immanuel—The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.     

–Acts 5:42

“Jesus—the Christ, Messiah, Immanuel”

In Southeast Asia is it not uncommon for children to be named simply with a number representing their order of birth. In some areas, many first born sons have the same name which, in their local language means “first” or “one.”  This name becomes and important identifier of ones place in the family, along with the rights, responsibilities, and tasks which will be required of them.

In Scripture names also carry much deeper importance than simply distinguishing one person from another. Names function as descriptions of ones personal nature (Barnabas—Son of Encouragement), physical characteristics (Esau—”hairy,” or perhaps “red”), family relationships (Jonah, Son of Amittai), calling, purpose, or identity (Jesus Christ, the Messiah). “Christ” was not a family like “Smith” or “Jones,” but rather the Greek (Kristos) version of “Messiah” which meant “anointed one.”

Children, of course are given names at birth (or at some point following birth):

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the  name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.     

–Matthew 1:21

The Savior’s given name at birth was “Jesus,” while the name “Christ” or “Messiah” describe his divine identity, his calling, and his purpose; similar to other names used to describe who Jesus was but not used as a personal moniker –

  • Immanuel (Matt 1:23) – “God with us”
  • Son of God (Mark 3:11)
  • Son of the Most High (Mark 5:7)
  • Son of Man (Luke 9:22)

Finally, as the time of Jesus’ earthy ministry is coming to an end, Jesus gives his followers three more names designed to help us know how to live following his departure:

Thomas said to him,

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, 

“I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE

~John 14:5-6a



→ If I must err, let it be in the direction of love… 

 

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Heavenly Father | Discipleship Prayer Day 2

Heavenly Father, God Most High, Most Holy, Most Loving

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

–James 1:17-18 (NIV)

“Heavenly Father…”

Everything good, right, perfect, and true comes to us by the divine initiative of our Heavenly Father, who is:

“God Most High”

The Creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that is contained in all the created world (Gen 14:2). There is no thing and no one greater or more powerful the Almighty God who is above all things (Isa 46:9).

“God Most Holy”

The greatness of God is grounded firmly in holiness (Lev 11:45).  God is wholly separate (different) than the created world (Jos 3:14); completely pure and free from contamination (Deut 32:4); entirely perfect, complete, and whole, lacking nothing; and defined from beginning to end by love—holy, perfect, cross-bearing love (Psalm 13:5).

“God Most Loving”

Self-sacrificial, cross-bearing, perfect love is the foundational, defining nature of God (1 John 4:16). This love is also the essence of holiness and the motivation behind every display of divine creativity and power.

As we come into God’s presence in prayer it is important to begin with praising God for who God is – most high, most holy, most loving, and much more – and remembering that it pleases God to love and be loved. As we come before the Lord, seeking to be renewed and re-created in the Imago Dei (image of God), it is God’s pleasure to give the gift of renewed goodness and re-created perfection (wholeness and purpose) to those who sincerely seek the face of God.



→ If I must err, let it be in the direction of love… 

 

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Discipleship Prayer | Day One

Your way is the way of fullness and life.  In Jesus name…Amen

Read the “Discipleship Prayer” below slowly, intentionally, pausing to think and reflect along the way as the Spirit leads. Notice which parts cause you to pause, which parts bring about questions, and which parts do not come out as easily as it seems they should. Over the next 30 days we will be breaking down this prayer, investigating, considering, and reflecting on each line. Today, spend as much time as you can familiarizing yourself with the prayer.

DAILY DISCIPLESHIP PRAYER

Heavenly Father—God Most High, Most Holy, Most Loving

Jesus—the Christ, Messiah, Immanuel—The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Holy Spirit—Our Strength, our Comfort, our Helper and Guide.

Almighty, Triune God

———

Your name is holy and worthy to be praised above all others.

You are perfect in love and in all your plans and purposes.

We bow before you today with humble, thankful hearts.

———

Let your kingdom rule in my body, my relationships, and my world.

Let love and mercy be the starting point of everything I do.

Let justice and truth be always on my mind and on my lips.

Let your grace, your peace, and your blessing flow through me daily.

———

I desire to walk close to you today, Lord.

In all things give me what I need and no more

Love & wisdom;

Perseverance & courage;

Guidance and direction

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your path.

———

Forgive me when I turn my back on you or hurt the people around me;

When I am less than loving, less than peaceful, and less than truthful.

And give me strength to truly forgive those who do the same to me.

———

Teach me to follow you more and more

To trust in you more and more

To listen to and obey you more and more

———

Let my words be full of grace and seasoned with salt

Let my thoughts and actions be full of spiritual fruit:

Love, Joy, Peace, patience, Kindness, Faithfulness, gentleness, and Self-control

———

Keep me from things that knock me down and pull me away from you

And when these things come, give me strength to stand firm.

For your kingdom is a kingdom of power, hope, and forgiveness.

Your way is the way of fullness and life.

In Jesus name…Amen



→ If I must err, let it be in the direction of love… 

 

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Discipleship Prayer | Introduction

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.     ~Psalm 143:8~

 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.     ~1 Thessalonians 3:10~

Mornings get a bad rap in busy, sleep-deprived, burn-the-midnight-oil-then-get-up-and-get-to-work world where every day becomes grind; a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual battle just to survive. On the other end, our evenings are filled with playing to-do list catch-up, children’s extra-curricular activities, keeping up with minimal household chores, and so much more.

We are busy. Too busy.

Always moving but rarely arriving at the place we desire to be.

“…if I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really live.”       ― Henri Nouwen, Letters to Marc About Jesus

When was the last time you let yourself ease into the new day, sipping a coffee while watching the sun rise from below the horizon to shining brightly in the morning sky?  Have you ever walked in the fresh, dew-covered grass, enjoying the brisk coolness of the morning before the world begins to awake?

The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day.    ― Henry Ward Beecher

As a culture we no longer sit on the front porch chatting with neighbors and passerbyers at the day cools down into evening. Instead we spend our time driving from garage to parking lot, entertained via headphones, televisions, and our phones. We are both more connected than ever while at the same time being increasingly disengaged in the lives of the people around us. We are either so consumed by a drive to achieve—or so distracted by those things which keep from achieving—that we fail to see the value, and the opportunities for meaningful interactions, that each day holds.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.    Robert Louis Stevenson

In Genesis both work and rest are prescribed to humanity—both are good and necessary, at right times, in correct quantities, and done properly. Work is good and necessary, not only as a means of caring for our families and the community in which we live, but as a part of our God-given vocation of caring for the created world in which we live. Rest, in the same way, is good and necessary, providing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual renewal that we need.

The exception is the Sabbath, the day on which there is to be no work (Exodus 20:10); a day reserved for rest and doing good (Mark 3:4). This Sabbath rest is to be a time of remembering all that God has done, trusting in God’s provision as we step away from our own efforts to provide for ourselves, and to entering into a time of fellowship with family, friends, and our community.

[Sabbath] declares in bodily ways that we will not participate in the anxiety system that pervades our social environment. We will not be defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more,…      Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance

In the same way that God has given us the gift (yes, it is a gift when we realize fully its purpose and power to transform our lives in meaningfully ways) of a Sabbath day, we might also consider arranging our daily schedule with one or more “Sabbath moments” – short periods of time to intentionally and purposefully separate ourselves from the many busyness and distractions of the day for the purpose of praising God, praying, practicing hospitality, and putting our priorities in proper perspective. These Sabbath moments could take a variety of forms:

    • Waking up 30 minutes before the rest of the household;
    • A post-lunch “pillow retreat” while the kids nap;
    • Sitting in the car for a few moments after work before driving home;
    • A morning walk or evening stroll, alone or with a friend;
    • Sitting around the table sharing with family the things for which we are thankful;

Susanna Wesley, mother of John Wesley, was said to sit at the kitchen table with a towel over her head as household activities continued all around her.  During those few moments she was not to be bothered. I have found morning walks to be a time of refreshing reflection and preparation for the day ahead.  Find something that works for you and do it well and do it consistently.

During one moment of personal prayer and reflection, while thinking about how, as a father, I could lead my family in the art of prayer, reflection, and good Sabbath rest, the Spirit gave to me a prayer.  I began calling it “Morning Prayer” as we would read it—in part or in whole as part of our regular personal and family devotional time.  For the purposes of this book, I have changed it name to “Discipleship Prayer” to avoid the misconception that it can only be used in the morning.

This discipleship prayer, I hope, will be a blessing and an encouragement to you, as it has been for me.  Each days reading will focus on a line or phrase from the prayer along with related Scripture, quotes, song lyrics, journal reflections, and more.  How and when you use each days reading is completely up to you. My primary encouragement to you is to not read these words only with the goal of simply doing your devotional duty, but rather with the hope of interacting with God, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and growing in Christlikeness.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you…      ~Numbers 6:24-25~



→ If I must err, let it be in the direction of love… 

 

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The Way

Running full speed

This article was originally written in June 2019.

These follower of The Way had to move beyond the borders of Judaism to be who they were called to be…and we must also move beyond the boundaries of our own comfort to be who we are called to be.

Diane LeClerc, in her book Discovering Christian Holiness, points out that as long Christianity was under the umbrella of Judaism rather than a radically new, un-Jewish form of religious faith, it enjoyed “a type of immunity and toleration” (78) with regard to the way it was seen and responded to by the Roman Empire.  The relationship between the Roman Empire and Judaism had a history with established boundaries, regulations, and expectations.  As long this new movement–The Way–kept to itself, didn’t make waves, and stayed within the already established boundaries delineated by the already existing understanding between Rome and Judaism, The Way would have remained relatively safe and unbothered.

People often say that Jesus did not come to earth to start a new religion. Whatever our opinion of that statement, one thing is clear—

Jesus presented such compelling example and demonstration of God’s power, plan, and purpose that those who took it seriously simply could not responsibly stay within the boundaries of Judaism as a religion, nor move forward while staying in the narrow lane of Roman expectations for them as nothing more than a Jewish sect. 

These follower of The Way had to move beyond the borders of Judaism to be who they were called to be.  The result brought about an era of church history in which martyrdom was viewed, according to LeClerc, the highest sign of holiness. That is, the willingness to die for ones faith in Jesus Christ was seen to be highest form of devotion, commitment, and outward evidence of a transformed heart and life.

For much of the history of the church in America, perhaps, it might be said that we have been like The Way, staying within the boundaries established by Rome. That is, perhaps the church has enjoyed the protection, safety, and comfort protection by favorable government regulations (freedom to gather, freedom to worship openly, and tax-deductions) , the safety of a general cultural favorability to basic Christian thought and life (there was a time when parents who didn’t attend church sent their children to Sunday school because it was “good for them”), and the comfort of economic and social well-being and success (large buildings, extensive facilities, land ownership, and large congregations).

At a glance it might seem that the church in America has enjoyed one of the best and most fruitful periods of church history. But it hasn’t come without a price. We’ve been able to enjoy these things as long as we stayed within our own lane.  One example–churches enjoy tax-exempt status and privileges, so long as they abide by certain state-established laws and regulations. The question that needs to be asked, however, is whether this lane–wide and comfortable as it is–has helped or hurt its ability to live out the compelling example of Jesus of God’s power, plan, and purpose.

The followers of The Way they may well-have enjoyed similar protection, safety, and comfort under Rome, if not for an undeniable conviction that their movement called them to so much more. 

In other words, their understanding of their foundational and ultimate purpose would not allow them to remain trapped inside a box—they had to break free, live out their purpose, and follow the example and teachings of Christ regardless of the consequences.  This was the way they must go.

The contemporary situation in America is somewhat different has it has been in the not-so-distant past. The church is being moved out from under the long-established protection, safety, and comfort that came with the cultural, social, economic, and religious favor of popular society. This is not a missional choice by the church, it’s not motivated by a conviction that to live responsible Christian lives the church must renounce the protections it once enjoyed. Instead, these changes are coming by way of a rapidly shifting cultural, economic, social, and religious landscape that is pushing the church out from its once well-respected position in society. As a result, there is this foreboding sense of mourning over what is being lost, anger because it is being lost, and and “all-American” desire to fight back and take back what we believe is rightfully ours, all the while only giving lip service to the overriding theme of holiness that is the ultimate purpose of God the church—full and complete love for God and Christlike love for neighbor.

            

—————————————————-

This article was originally presented in a class and was responded to by other students.  I have reproduced a few of those responses below:

—————————————————-

My Response to K:  You wrote, K — “What if we took our church calendars and examined the events and activities of the church each month or year in light of this statement?  We could do the same with our budgets and our curriculum.  Families and individuals can do the same with their calendars and budgets.” 

This is something I’ve often thought about–how do budgets reflect who we are?  How do we allow budgets to determine the things we do and don’t do?  In my particular ministry, I talk a lot about house churches or “no-designated-church-building” churches.  It’s not an idea that is easy to accept for most of our churches leaders who were taught (to put it very simply) that churches must have buildings.  But there are two great advantages–(1) churches can be planted with virtually no financial investment required, and (2) monies that are given/collected can more easily be used in ways that directly reflect the mission and priorities of the church. May we all score well on the rubric of love!  🙂

Response from G:   I really appreciate the perspective you lend when you write, “We can see the church moving out from under the long-established protection, safety, and comfort that came with the cultural, social, economic, and religious favor of popular society.” As a young up-and-coming Latina American,  I hadn’t really thought of the church as holding a respected position in society until recently. I was kind of rushed into learning about politics in 2016 because it felt like my life depended on it. The divisiveness of that time that continues to protrude into our rhetoric, has proved that half of the population in North America is unhappy with those in power, the church being one of those. I am not sure if this is because of who makes up our churches or because Christianity is what the ideals of the founding father of this nation were but now, the church is definitely facing a loss of its seat in power. People are angry at that. Truly, the “’all-American’ desire to fight back” is real as you said. But at what cost? I guess I am just echoing your thoughts and really appreciate the narrative your perspective shares. It makes sense to me! I think this may be an opportunity for our churches to gracefully respond to the challenges that face it. I hope we respond in love and haven’t lost our footing in the way of holiness

Response from M:   Thanks for your addition to this class! I appreciate what you have to offer to us by way of your perspective living outside the USA. You have the unique opportunity to look at questions of culture and exile and empire through a different lens. It is pretty obvious that the church and Christianity in general are losing their position of spiritual authority and respect amidst a culture that is changing at a rate we cannot keep up with.

I really was struck by what you pulled from our reading about The Way and how they had a certain amount of protection from Rome so long as they did not make waves or push the boundaries. I rather agree that same thing applies to present day Christianity in that we are tolerated so long as we do not make too many waves. We have not been in this place before.  We are coming to a place where we may at some point be called on to step up or step away from the protections we once enjoyed to order to live by our convictions. I was also thinking about another angle on this….I think it comes from “The Screwtape Letters,” where it is suggested that Satan will leave us be so long as we are complacent. Satan has no need to waste his energy on stopping our efforts because we are not accomplishing anything for the Kingdom. 

 

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By Doing Good

by doing good
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…
…whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
For this is the will of God
…that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Honor everyone…Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17
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Those who go out weeping

Those who go out weeping
“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” —Psalms‬ ‭126:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
Even during these heated, divisive, challenging times may we continue to sow good seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…..so that, in time, there might be songs of joy for a fruitful, abundant harvest of the same.