Week Twenty-one: Persecution & Proclamation

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 104
    • Noon: Psalm 73
    • Vespers: Psalm 9
    • Night: Psalm 136
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: Acts 4:1-31
    • Tuesday: Acts 5:17-42
    • Wednesday: Acts 6:8-15
    • Thursday: Acts 7:1-8:3
    • Friday: Acts 9:1-31
  • Moment of silence

 Prayers

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

Practice

Do a search on Facebook or social media and notice all of the references to persecution. Determine which ones reflect true persecution and which ones are merely perceptions of a loss of status.

Engage a non-Christian friend in a discussion regarding persecution. Ask them what they think of how American Christians tend to view themselves as persecuted. Do not judge their answers. Just listen for the truth they express. Spend time in conversation, but do more listening than talking.

In your journal record the results of those conversations.

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Week Twenty: Restoring the Kingdom

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 18:20-29
    • Noon: Psalm 18:30-36
    • Vespers: Psalm 118:1-16
    • Night: Psalm 118:17-29
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: Acts 1:1-11
    • Tuesday: Acts 1:12-26
    • Wednesday: Acts 2:1-41
    • Thursday: Acts 2:42-47
    • Friday: Acts 3:1-26
  • Moment of silence

Prayers

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

Practice

Over the years I’ve changed my views about the dim-wittedness of the disciples in Acts 1. I had previously thought they still didn’t have a clue about what Jesus was trying to do with kingdom. But then it occurred to me: Jesus spent forty-days post resurrection speaking with them about the kingdom. The end of the book of Acts is about…kingdom (“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” Acts 28:30, 31). And Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for not getting it right. He simply says, “Wait for the Spirit.”

The truth is, the book of Acts is about the kingdom being restored! What Jesus did in Luke, the disciples do in Acts. This is kingdom come: the will of heaven done on earth.

In Acts 1 and 2 we see kingdom played out in joyous proclamation and community.

Sometime this week, share what you are reading in Acts with a friend (“Hey, I’ve been reading this book, can I tell you about it?”). Also, take extra time to connect with your Christian community. Have someone over for a meal or dessert or a game night. Just spend time connecting.

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Saturday morning thoughts in solitude

14 May 2016

A thunderstorm is moving in. The mourning doves are singing their solos–like a chorale comprised of nothing but solo artists singing their own tunes. They are joined by a cacophony  of other birds which are unidentifiable to me.

The morning has turned cool.

Rain.

God, I thank you for rain.

I hear it as it approaches, striking the leaves of the trees from which direction? Northwest? I hear it before I see it. The drops that squeeze through the leaves find their way to the pavement of my driveway.

The birds have stilled their songs on the whole–though a few still join in. The bass rumble of thunder takes the place of their voices.

A few mourning doves will not be silenced, but they are subdued.

Lightening. You cannot have a good thunderstorm without it. It does not disappoint.

Rain.

I feel the moisture in the air. I smell it.

Thank you for rain.

It reminds me of your provision and of your power. We humans think we are something–but then all it takes is one storm to jar us to our senses and out of our self-aggrandizement. In the face of such force we see and feel our fragility.

Thank you for rain.

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Discerning God’s Will

What is God’s will for my life?

This is a question that has been tossed around by people for generations. It’s as if we are looking for God to provide some sort of game plan for our lives to guide us in our choices of places to live, colleges to attend, people to marry, business deals to consider. And I get that. It’s nice to know that there may be an overarching plan that will bring sense to my life.

We love to quote Jeremiah 29:11-13,  

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The only problem is that it has nothing to do with our future or God’s plan for an individual Christian’s life. This wasn’t written to us to make us feel good that somehow God was going to provide wonderful opportunities for us in the future. (The context is about Judah and the return from the exile).

The truth is God’s will for your life is that you live for the praise of his glory, that you live holy and blameless in his sight, that you live appropriately as an adopted child of his (Ephesians 1, 4).

This isn’t about where you move. It isn’t about whom you marry.

It is about how you live.

God does not micro-manage our lives. He created us with brains and common sense. He gives us a community of brothers and sisters to lean on. He wants us to grow into maturity, much the way we want our children to grow. Do I want my adult children to move where I tell them, take the jobs I think they should have, send their kids to the schools I want them to? Or do I want my adult children to make mature choices?

In other words, do I want my adult children to be adult?

I think God wants the same for us.

The truth is, often it isn’t about God’s will. We desperately look for signs to confirm what we want to do. I’ve had friends and colleagues make terrible choices because they just knew God had given a sign confirming what they had already convinced themselves they should do. In the end, they left behind a string of damaged relationships and heart-ache.

In the end, it wasn’t so much God’s will but their own.

More often than not, circumstances only represent a choice for us to make. It might be a good opportunity, or it might be a temptation. Give the devil his due–not all seemingly good situations are provided by God. Not every open door should be stepped through. Even the oh-so-attractive-and-seemingly-spiritual opportunities might be a temptation detracting us from something more important.

So, how does one ascertain the will of God in a certain situation?

First of all, disabuse yourself of the idea that God is micromanaging your life and that there is only one possible choice to make that is “the will of God.” If you are faced with several options and all options are honorable, then whichever option you choose God will be with you. It is his will that you think and act with the mind of Christ. If all of your options are good, just, and honorable–then choose knowing God will respect your choice.

Secondly, do not fall victim to the belief that all options should result in a satisfactory outcome for you. Jesus followed the explicit will of God and he was crucified. God’s will for Jesus was marked out by pain and suffering. In the end there was resurrection–but the road went through the cross.

Thirdly, determine if the options before you are both reasonable and honorable. If one option is not honorable, not in line with the revealed will of God, if you have to compromise your morals or act in such a way that actively demonstrates insensitivity and hatefulness toward others, if you have to steal or cheat or lie–then you already know this option is not the will of God.

Finally, seek and listen to the counsel of wise and discerning friends. In other words, make your decision within community. In my own personal experience, this is perhaps one of the most under- or mis-utilized resource available to us. Too often, we decide on our own what is the best course of action–or, we only listen to voices that agree with our preconceived ideas after we’ve already made up our minds.

Why do we avoid the last option? Perhaps because we have already decided what we wish to do and we do not want other voices which may dissuade us. I find this particularly disturbing. If I claim I am interested in following God’s will, then why do I avoid what was most often utilized to determine God’s will in the past: community?

Perhaps it wasn’t God’s will I was interested in, after all.

So, what is God’s will?

To walk blameless before him, to live for the praise of his glory, to live appropriately as his adopted children: to allow him to transform us into the character of Christ.

Beyond that? He wants you to use the resources he has given you for intelligent decision making: your common sense and your community of spiritual friends (those who love you unconditionally and who love God).

What do you think?

 

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Week Nineteen: Faith

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 18:7-19
    • Noon: Psalm 71:1-12
    • Vespers: Psalm 71:13-24
    • Night: Psalm 135
  • Moment of silence
  • Scripture readings:
    • Monday: Luke 7:1-10
    • Tuesday: Luke 9:18-36
    • Wednesday: Luke 9:37-62
    • Thursday: Luke 11:1-13
    • Friday: Luke 17:1-10; 18:1-14
  • Moment of silence

 Prayers

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

 Practice

Write out your own practice for this week. Read through the passages for the week and journal the possible “now what” scenarios.

 

 

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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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