Week Eighteen: Passion & Power

Preparation

  • Recite or sing/chant Psalms 130 and 131 (I suggest you memorize these two Psalms)
  • Moment of Silence

Presence (through the Scripture)

  • Psalm reading (select from below):
    • Morning: Psalm 18:1-3
    • Noon: Psalm 18:4-6
    • Vespers: Psalm 69:19-29
    • Night: Psalm 70
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: Luke 19:28-20:19
    • Tuesday: Luke 22:7-53
    • Wednesday: Luke 22:54-23:25
    • Thursday: Luke 23:26-56
    • Friday: Luke 24:1-53
  • Moment of silence

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling and silent reflection
  • Close with the “Lord’s Prayer”

Practice

Passion and power are all around us. Look around you for those who seem to be caught in the midst of suffering. Pray that God will open your eyes to the suffering around you and ask how you can enter into that suffering with God’s compassion.

For us, the power of the resurrection involves bringing new life and new hope into the lives of those especially vulnerable to pain and disappointment. Explore how you can be a redemptive presence in someone’s life this week. This is not a call to explain or preach or teach—but a call to be present with another person and offer them your concern and love without necessarily offering an explanation.

Be certain to record in your journal who God leads you to this week and how you were challenged to be a redemptive presence.

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Nasr’uddin’s University

Once Nasr’uddin told his friends he was going to start a university. They asked, “What will you teach your students?”

“Well,” he replied, “I will teach theology, philosophy, and how to wash behind your neck.”

His friends scratched their beards and said, “Nasr’uddin, efendi–we understand teaching theology: to study the ways of Allah is the highest form of knowledge to pursue. And to study the wisdom of man is the second greatest topic of study. But what is this ‘washing behind the neck’?”

Nasr’uddin replied, “Well, if my students do not know how to deal with what they cannot see, all of the theology and philosophy in the world will do them no good.”


So, what do you think?

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A Hasidic Tale: Have you seen the sky?

Once a Rabbi leaned out of his window facing the market place and called a disciple who was scurrying around in the square.

“Menachem, have seen the sky today?” the rebbe called out.

“No, Rabbi, I have not seen the sky.”

“Tell me what you see, then?”

“I see the market, busy merchants, men and women coming and going,” the disciple replied.

“Ah, Menachem! A hundred years from now, a street and market filled with busy merchants and people, just like this one, will stand in this same spot. But I shall no longer be her and neither will you. So I ask you, Menachem, what’s the good of hurrying to and fro if you don’t even have time to look at the sky?”

Does this story strike you in any way? How so?

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Week Seventeen: Called to heal and serve…

Preparation

  • Recite or sing/chant Psalms 130 and 131 (I suggest you memorize these two Psalms)
  • Moment of Silence

Presence (through the Scripture)

  • Psalm reading (select from below):
    • Morning: Psalm 17
    • Noon: Psalm 68:21-35
    • Vespers: Psalm 69:1-18
    • Night: Psalm 100
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: Luke 5:1-11
    • Tuesday: Luke 5:12-26
    • Wednesday: Luke 5:27-32
    • Thursday: Luke 5:33-6:11
    • Friday: Luke 6:12-49
  • Moment of silence

 Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling and silent reflection
  • Close with the “Lord’s Prayer”

 Practice

The readings this week follow an interesting progression: the calling of self-admitted sinful people (with Peter featured prominently), followed by healings, forgiveness, associating with more sinful people, proclamation that Jesus is Lord, again calling these same sinful people to be special emissaries (designated apostles—Peter, again) followed by an address which is an explanation of what it means to be a Christ follower (sermon on the plain).

While we cannot make hard and fast rules or applications here the progression is something to note. You have been called as a follower of Jesus. This week has he taken you to places where healing, forgiveness, friendship, or a proclamation of Jesus as Lord is needed?

As you begin this week, watch for these opportunities to heal (by serving others physically and emotionally), to forgive, to provide friendship, and to share the identity of Jesus. Pray that God will open your eyes and your hearts to see the needs and to respond. Write down your experiences for this week. See if God has led you to these places.

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Trying to change the other…

I have to start off with a disclaimer. This post might come across as critical and judgmental of others. Please understand that I write this as a confession. So if it comes across rather harsh, the harshness is also directed at myself. As Jim McQuiggan once quipped in a large gathering he was preaching to, “Please, I’m sorry that I’m shouting. I’m really not shouting at you. I’m shouting at myself.”

I’ve been in ministry for over 35 years. I’ve officiated weddings, I’ve offered spiritual counsel, I’ve been a part of several congregations, and I’ve been in thousands of conversations with other ministers about their experiences.

All of this is to say, I think I may know what I’m talking about when it comes to trying to change people–whether we are speaking of a spouse, children, counselees, an eldership, or a church.

You can’t.

At least not in a healthy sense. I suppose you could control people and beat them down to the point they will do what you say. But by then you have changed them by abuse and dysfunction. In other words you would have become dysfunctional and evil.

But you can’t force someone to become more healthy, more responsible, and more functional. You can only encourage and support.

I do not know how many times I’ve seen young adults marry someone one who had severe problems thinking they could change this person. I’ve talked (and have been one of) countless ministers who thought they could change a church or an eldership they agreed to serve. And so they entered into a marriage with a person, a ministry with a church or a leadership that was unhealthy, dysfunctional, or completely different in personality or opinion, thinking they could change them into their image.

It’s a pipe dream and I would suggest it is even wrong.

Why? Because you are entering a relationship as a “savior” or a “messiah” and you are being dishonest to them and yourself. They hire you (or marry you) thinking you are going to make them “complete” or grow without changing them (at least not in a terribly uncomfortable way). You are going thinking, “Yes, they don’t want to change, but I know what is best.” Immediately you are entering the relationship seeing yourself as superior and they as inferior. That in itself is a dysfunctional approach. You come with an ideal and they want to remain the way they are.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The ideal is the enemy of the real”.

It is a recipe for disaster.

You will either damage the person/church or you will be damaged. Sometimes irreparably.

So, what to do?

This is difficult and I know it will not be listened to by many–and while that is sad, it’s OK. I can’t change you, either. Only you can do that. I can only hope you will consider this and at least take time to reflect on it.

The answer is simple but difficult. If you find yourself wanting to marry someone in order to change them.

Don’t do it.

If you are being “courted” by a church and you know it has major problems. You know the congregation itself has no desire to be different. Even if the leadership has promised a bright future if only they can get the right person in.

Don’t go.

Remember that leadership came from that congregation. Unless something has happened to infuse the congregation with a new understanding of grace and compassion (and it won’t be that “try out sermon” you preached) they will not change.

The Bible is pretty clear that even God does not force people into repentance (the religious word for “change”). It is a choice that has to be freely made or it is worthless.

Again: this is not to criticize or judge anyone who has fallen into this trap. To do so is to judge myself. I, too, have been guilty of trying to change people, thinking somehow I had that power. I have done this as a husband, as a father, and as a minister.

I have dear friends who are the best of the best–incredible men and women–who look back and say, “I wished I had thought that one through.”

So please do not read this as condemnation or judgment. We all are tempted in this way, many of us fall into this temptation. Which is to say, we are all imperfect and unrealistic at least sometimes. And because of this we need to be reminded:

We are not messiahs. We are not saviors. We will only damage ourselves and others if we take on that mantle.

Does this resonate with anyone?

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A Hasidic tale: You were not beating me…

Once a Rabbi and his disciple were traveling through a small village in Ukraine. A woman saw the Rabbi and mistook him for her husband who had abandoned her years before. She jumped on him and began to beat and curse him unmercifully.

When she realized her mistake, she broke down and wept uncontrollably.

“Don’t cry,” said the rebbe. “You were not beating me, you were beating your husband.”

Then softly to his disciple he said, “How often we hurt others when we are striking at someone else.”

Does this story resonate with you in any way? How so?

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Week sixteen: Doubts and restitution…

Preparation

  • Recite or sing/chant Psalms 130 and 131 (I suggest you memorize these two Psalms)
  • Moment of Silence

Presence (through the Scripture)

  • Psalm reading (select from below):
    • Morning: Psalm 8
    • Noon: Psalm 60
    • Vespers: Psalm 108:1-6
    • Night: Psalm 108:7-13
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: John 20:18-23
    • Tuesday: John 20:24-31
    • Wednesday: John 21:1-14
    • Thursday: John 21:15-25
    • Friday: Re-read John 20-21 in one sitting
  • Moment of silence

Prayers

  • Prayers of thanksgiving and petition
  • Journaling and silent reflection
  • Close with the “Lord’s Prayer”

Practice

 As you reflect on the doubters and the betrayers in this story ask yourself if you have fit into any of these categories? Who was it who first gave you hope in the middle of your doubts? Who was it that first extended forgiveness to you—who taught you what forgiveness really means?

Pay very close attention to the people with whom you come in contact this week. Are there any who are struggling with doubt? Are there any who seem to be burdened with guilt? Try to find creative ways to share a word of forgiveness and a word of hope in these situations. Pray specifically that God will give you the words to say and/or the actions to demonstrate.

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