Week 27: Listening

Preparation

  • Recite Psalms 130 & 131
  • Sing the old hymn: “The LORD is in his holy temple / let all the earth keep silence before him. / Keep silence! / Keep silence! / Keep silence before him!”
  • Moment of silence

Presence through the word

  • Psalm reading (selected from below)
    • Morning:         Psalm  34
    • Noon:               Psalm  49
    • Vespers:          Psalm  81
    • Night:               Psalm  143
  • Moment of Silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday:          Deuteronomy 6:4-25
    • Tuesday:         Isaiah 51:1-6
    • Wednesday:    Isaiah 51:7-11
    • Thursday:       Isaiah 51:12-16
    • Friday:            Isaiah 51:17-23
  • Moment of Silence

Practicing the presence

It seems we always want to hear from God. We do not want to hear a word from God: we want a paragraph! But if we never take time to listen to him through the text, or through God’s community (or through family members who might really be listening), why should we expect God to speak?

In James 1 we are told to ask for wisdom but if we don’t ask in faith then we shouldn’t expect to receive an answer. “Faith” in James refers to active obedience. It is as if James is saying, “If you don’t plan to follow the wisdom God would give you–if you’re hedging your bets–why would you expect him to waste his time by granting wisdom?”

So this week, listen! Take a “vow of silence” in which you pledge to yourself to not speak anything unnecessary. Don’t broadcast this vow. Just observe it and as you do listen to God as he speaks to you through the people you associate with and work with, through the community of God, and naturally through your reading of the text.

In prayer, instead of asking and trying to come up with phrases: spend the time in silent listening. Just be quiet before God. Don’t necessarily expect to hear anything–you are not praying to manipulate God. You are in silence before him acknowledging that He is the creator and all should be still and silent before him.

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling or silent reflection
  • “The Lord’s Prayer”
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Week 26: Suffering (1)

My two weeks rest turned into a six weeks absence!  My apologies for neglecting this blog! The trip to Ukraine was mixed with joy and sadness. Joy at seeing so many of our wonderful friends, sadness of not being able to be in Donetsk due to the violence–sadness that so many are suffering and hurting, sadness that there are brothers and sisters fighting each other. Please continue to pray for the peace of Ukraine!

Preparation

  • Recite Psalms 130 & 131
  • Moment of silence

Presence through the word

  • Psalm reading (selected from below)
    • Morning:         Psalm 88
    • Noon:               Psalm 6
    • Vespers:          Psalm 42
    • Night:               Psalm 73
  • Moment of Silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday:          Job 1
    • Tuesday:         Job 2:1-10
    • Wednesday:    Job 2:11-13
    • Thursday:       Job 3
    • Friday:            Job 6:1-23
  • Moment of Silence

Practicing the presence

Life is difficult. The sooner we realize this the sooner life becomes more manageable. But some suffering seems irredeemable. Some suffering seems so harsh that how can this ever be redemptive?

Perhaps we can never know in this life. While suffering is universal and the “thing we fear the most” will come to us all, we still suffer in different degrees.

To put perspective on your own personal experience of suffering, seek out this week those who are hurting. You may want to visit a nursing home, a hospital, the sick in your congregation, or volunteer to do some work in a homeless shelter or children’s home.

When you go–be like Job’s friends at the end of chapter 2 (this is the only time I’d recommend following their examples!): go in silence. Do not offer advice or suggestions about why people suffer. Instead seek to suffer with.

The Greek word translated sympathy means literally “to feel with.” Our word sympathy has lost this meaning–this fits more the word empathy. As you go to serve others this week, go with the intent of attempting to feel with those you serve–rather than feel sorry for them.

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling or silent reflection
  • “The Lord’s Prayer”
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Two Week Rest

The title is somewhat misnamed. I’m not going to rest over the next two weeks: but you get a rest from my devotional suggestions!

I would like to ask you during this next full week to pray for me. I will be traveling to Ukraine and working there for a week. I am very eager to see so many of my friends, co-workers, and colleagues. I will miss seeing some very dear friends who live in Donetsk. Please keep them in your prayers!

Pray for the peace of Ukraine! Pray that peace, love, and unity will prevail. There may be a lot of hard feelings in existence, but God is the God of peace. He is the God who specializes in tearing down walls of hostility! He’s done it before, pray he will do it again and soon!

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Week Twenty: Remembrance

My apologies for the delay in getting this week’s devotional guide out. I hope everyone took time out this Memorial Day to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the countless military conflicts that our nation has experienced. Regardless of one’s view (pacifist or just war advocate) I think we can all agree that the dead should be honored–that we should “mark the moment” and not forget.

Preparation

  • Recite Psalms 130 & 131
  • Moment of silence

Presence through the word

  • Psalm reading (selected from below)
    • Morning:         Psalm 5
    • Noon:               Psalm 44
    • Vespers:          Psalm 74
    • Night:               Psalm 117
  • Moment of Silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday:          Genesis 35:1-14
    • Tuesday:         Exodus 12:1-28
    • Wednesday:    Numbers 10:1-10
    • Thursday:       Deuteronomy 6
    • Friday:            Joshua 3:14-4:9
  • Moment of Silence

Practicing the presence

Memory is an important thing for the follower of God. Throughout the Bible we see God setting up rituals, commands, and monuments with one purpose in mind: to remember. God puts great emphasis upon keeping his love and guidance fresh on the minds of those he loves.

It seems he constantly sets up a practice to elicit questions that lead to retelling the story of the rescue for his people.

In the New Testament this practice carries over in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. A memorial meal was given, questions are assumed, and a story is told. God wants his people to remember.

This week, how will you choose to remember what God has done to rescue you? What can you use as a reminder to keep his love and provision first and foremost in your mind? Open this up to your family and ask them to create your own family ritual to help you remember God’s loving care.

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling or silent reflection
  • “The Lord’s Prayer”
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What Would Jesus Do? Turn over tables? Really?

“When someone asks you ‘think about what Jesus would do’, remember that a valid option is to make a whip and turn over tables” 

I’ve seen this plastered all over Facebook recently. The quote is kind of cute and funny–even makes you think.

Except, it is simplistic at best–and disingenuous at its worst.

Simplistic: Jesus sees injustice so he acts violently. This completely takes the cleansing of the Temple out of its literary-historical context. As Messiah (and as God) Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple. It was a demonstration of Messianic identity. It was also the precursor of the final cleansing of the Temple in 70 AD.

The cursing of the fig tree and temple cleansing were demonstrations of God’s judgment upon Israel (see Malachi 3:1-3).

I don’t think any of us can claim Jesus’ authority to do this sort of thing.

Jesus also observed the Mosaic law, walked most everywhere…or rode a donkey…followed his father’s line of business until he was around 30–became an itinerant preaching rabbi who miraculously healed people and raised the dead–are you still ready to ask WWJD?

Disingenuous: Why do we choose this scene over say, Jesus refusing to defend himself, refusing to open his mouth, and allowing himself to be led to crucifixion? Or following his clear teachings of “turning the other cheek” or his extending mercy to a woman guilty of a capital crime? Or loving on and associating with those who were the complete outcast (socially and religiously).

We like the Temple cleansing example because it gives us the right to be righteously indignant and to react aggressively (verbally or emotionally) and to devastate our opponents.

The question is wrong to begin with.

Yes, he has left us an example to follow. However, it is more than simply following a few moral guidelines or trying to imitate a minimal amount of examples recorded in the gospels. You have to go beneath the actions and capture the intent (which, after all, was one of his stated points in the Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30, 33-37).

Paul speaks of having the “mind of Christ.” This is Spirit work (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is a living thing–for God to develop within us the heart and mindset of the Messiah: a grace-filled attitude that embodies the character of Jesus as described in Philippians 2–the kenosis or self-emptying–not seeking his own will and rights but being willing to give up what was rightfully his; to seek out the highest good for others.

Perhaps a better question might be: What does it mean to empty myself in this particular situation in order to demonstrate the mind of Christ? Not very catchy to be sure, but…

Something to think about.

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Week Nineteen: Warfare

Preparation

  • Recite Psalms 130 & 131
  • Moment of silence

Presence through the word

  • Psalm reading (selected from below)
    • Morning:         Psalm 2
    • Noon:               Psalm 35
    • Vespers:          Psalm 108
    • Night:               Psalm 129
  • Moment of Silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday:          Joshua 1
    • Tuesday:         Joshua 3
    • Wednesday:    Joshua 8:30-35
    • Thursday:       Joshua 10:1-15
    • Friday:            Joshua 14:6-15
  • Moment of Silence

Practicing the presence

What battles are you fighting in your life? List on a sheet of paper the struggles you face with sin, discouragement, frustration–whatever overwhelms you. Circle the ones which are sins, underline the ones which are natural (health problems), put a star by the ones which are the result of injustice.

First, pray over each item. As you pray look fully at the item, acknowledge its source, ask for God’s deliverance. Ask for wisdom, insight, and God’s strength in dealing with sin. Admit the sin for the evil it is and apologize to God. For things outside of your control (health, natural disaster, etc.) ask for God’s deliverance and ability to trust even if the problems persist. Ask for strength and courage to remain faithful even in the middle of problems.

On a second sheet of paper write out a strategy for dealing with the sins you struggle with. Before you write, ask for wisdom.

Take the first list. Pray over it. Thank God for hearing your prayer. Tear up the list, put in a pan, and burn it. Take the second page and pray over it and review it each day to remind you of your commitment to fight against the sin that seeks to control you.

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling or silent reflection
  • “The Lord’s Prayer”
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Week Eighteen: Family

Preparation

  • Recite Psalms 130 & 131
  • Moment of silence

Presence through the word

  • Psalm reading (selected from below)
    • Morning:          Psalm 4
    • Noon:               Psalm 13
    • Vespers:          Psalm 56
    • Night:               Psalm 114
  • Moment of Silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday:          Ruth 1
    • Tuesday:         Ruth 2
    • Wednesday:    Ruth 3
    • Thursday:       Ruth 4
    • Friday:            Ruth 1-4 (entire book in one sitting)
  • Moment of Silence

Practicing the presence

Is there a “Mara” in your family: someone who has been made bitter by the difficulties in life? Is there an older person who has been left lonely through death, divorce, or abandonment? What can you do to be a “Ruth”–a responsive and loyal younger friend who will serve and care?

First, list the people in your family who fit the description of a “Mara” (bitter). They do not have to be older than you–but often there are older people in families who are lonely and left alone. If there are none you can think of, how about in your community, neighborhood?

Second, begin praying for this person by name every day this week. Pray that God help you recognize the open doors you have been given to serve.

Third, reach out to this person in an act of kindness. Bring them a small meal, better still ask them out for a meal or to your house. If the step seems too big, then ask them out for a cup of coffee. And be prepared to listen without judgment or interruption.

Finally, be prepared to hang in with this person for the long haul. You are not trying to change this person. Your job is merely to be a friend and to love this person.

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling or silent reflection
  • “The Lord’s Prayer”
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