Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Healing Rhythm of Rest

As a Spiritual Director, my pastoral duties have more to do with listening than speaking. Occasionally, I do preach and when I do there is a certain amount of anxiety. Thanks to Toastmasters and a few tough preaching assignments, I have less fear of public speaking than I once did.

This week as I prepare to stand at the pulpit, I have noticed my anxiety has to do with the reality that sermon preparation isn’t part of my normal pastoral rhythm. It takes time to pray through a passage of Scripture, to listen to the Lord speak while faithfully studying the verses, and to craft a Holy Spirit inspired message that speaks to those who come with varying degrees of their own anxiety.

Last night I finally went to bed even though I was in the midst of making some final changes to my sermon on Psalm 111 about the Great Works of God, because I could no longer stay awake. In the morning when I sat down to finish, I found I had written this:

God provides for us in little ways all day long…we simply don’t take the time to do what we need most such as sleep.

Sleep has nothing to do with my sermon. In my sleepy state I had written what I most needed. Reflecting further, I wonder if the great work of God for me, for our non-stop culture, isn’t recognizing the need for rest and at times simply going to bed.

Wayne Muller shares this story in his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives:

Jack was diagnosed with a painful ulcer. His doctors offered treatments
that either gave him no relief or made him uncomfortable. He decided,
literally, to sleep on it. He had a favorite cat that began, every night,
to curl up on his stomach. She would wiggle underneath the blankets
as he slept, and remain on his stomach all night long. She would
periodically get out, stretch, take some fresh air, and crawl back in.
Within two week Jack’s ulcer was completely healed. (pg. 170)

What a great work of God!  What healing rhythm of rest is God inviting you and me to develop for our lives? I encourage you to take a few moments and read Psalm 111. Ultimately, may we have the courage to trust God to graciously do great works in our lives even as we rest.

Immediately, Making the First Move

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court,maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.  
~Matthew 5:21-26 (The Message)

These 6 verses in Matthew are hard to read.  So take a minute and slowly read them again, listen between each paragraph for what God is saying, and breathe.  Sometimes it is hard to live in community with others.  So go to the Lord and the Scriptures again, take time to listen and make things right with a fellow brother or sister in Christ, and pray. 

The Sermon on the Mount gives us a glimpse of what living in community entails.  How did the first church live out the words they remembered Jesus teaching them?

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  ~Acts 2:42-43 (ESV)

How are you and I to live out Jesus’ teaching in community today especially when there is so much tension inside and outside our churches today?  Here is what I have been putting into practice lately:

  • Immediately letting awe and not anger fill my soul’s need for peace by choosing to confidently trusting that God’s wonders and signs are being done through believers. 
  • Being devoted to prayerfully making the first move toward God and others in honest and authentic worship and fellowship.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit may it be so dear Lord…Amen!

Right Living and Loving

Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working. Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.  ~Matthew 5:17-20 (the Message)

What a rich passage of Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount this is!  The Law and the Prophets are the framework for right living with God and others.  And Jesus, the perfect fulfillment of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves, invites you and I to honestly evaluate whether we know the first thing about entering the kingdom of God or not.

Jesus boldly proclaims that the love the Pharisees displayed for God and others was only skin deep.  However, his followers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go deeper, to risk loving God and others in a way that is more real and more lasting.  So will you and I love in order to be seen by others or will we love for the sake of others with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?

There is nothing trivial about our life with God.  Right living and loving transforms lives.  By choosing to go deeper, you and I experience the fullness of joy in Jesus who was here on earth to fulfill the Law and the Prophets so we don’t have to even try.  What an amazing grace this is!  Amen and amen.