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Archive for May, 2013

Rest For Those He Loves | Psalm 127:1-3

disciplines logo_3FRIDAY
Reflection 25 of 35

Reflect
If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?   Psalm 127:1-3 MSG

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He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

There is a growing chorus of voices connecting with the ancient word about a weekly Sabbath – that it’s not enough just to take occasional “Sabbath” pit stops – five minutes here, maybe six minutes there, possibly 30 seconds over there. We need an actual day. Every week. We need a our own personal Stop Day. Matthew Sleeth calls it his prescription for a healthier, happier, life (and he doesn’t just play a doctor, he is one). And he has the stats to back up the claim. People who regularly stop for a whole day actually live longer – typically ten years longer. But when it comes down to it, it’s not about stopping to live longer or to be more productive or to be more holy because you stop on Saturdays rather than on Sundays (or rather than not at all). It’s about what is the essence of every spiritual practice: allowing ourselves to be in a place – in this case “in a palace in time” – where we can remember once again who He is, who we are, and what life is really all about. Otherwise we forget and are carried away on the rapids of our “clattering commerce.” Which is why we are told to remember the Sabbath. Stopping is actually a huge sign of our trust that it’s really not all about us with our ideas, plans, proposals, and projects after all. It’s a clear indicator we really do believe what today’s reading says: God is the one who is building the house, God is the one who is guarding the city. Or look at it this way. When God created humanity in the Genesis story, the first dawning full day of his life was not a workday. It was a Stop Day. We need to learn to stop.

Relate
Do you have a weekly “Stop Day” in your life? What would it look like if you did?

Respond
Pray
Lord, thank you for inviting me into rest, for inviting me to trust you and stop with you. Forgive me for so often blowing right by you in the forced momentums of my life. Teach me how to stop. Lead me into paths of true Sabbath of the soul. Through Jesus.

Practice
Commit to practicing your own personal Stop Day for the next six weeks – a day to dial down and disengage from normal routines as much as possible. See what happens. Try it.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Unforced Rhythms of Grace | Matthew 11:27-30

disciplines logo_3THURSDAY
Reflection 24 of 35

Reflect
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen. Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me —watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:27-30  MSG

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Subtracting a day of rest each week has had a profound effect on our lives. How could it not? One day a week adds up. Fifty-two days a year times an average life span is equal to more than eleven years. Take away eleven years of anything in a lifetime, and there will be a change. This is a law of the universe: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Subtract over a decade of sleep, work, or education, and the entire character of one’s existence is altered. Multiply eleven years times a third of a billion Americans, and you are looking for a lost continent of time. ~ Matthew Sleeth, 24/6

A lost continent of time. Quite the image! A decade of rest over a lifetime – as opposed to just another decade of more work. Many rabbis of old believed that if everyone kept the Sabbath just one day, the kingdom would come and all would be right with the world. What if Jesus hasn’t returned as many have predicted recently for the simple reason he knows everyone is far too busy to notice if he did come or even look for him? What if he were waiting for us all to simply stop and look up? What if he were waiting for us all to really take him up on his invitation and offer? “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to live freely and lightly.” How foreign this sounds, even to much of Christianity as we know it. It’s antithetical, almost, to Christianity as we practice it – a Christianity that frequently identifies busyness, stress, and weariness with spirituality. Even the day we often view as our true Sabbath (Sunday) is too often its own exhausting whirlwind of activity. Once again, none of this intended as a guilt trip. Just an opportunity to stop, to sit down, and to ask ourselves, to ask God, “Why am I doing what I am doing? What is driving me? What am I after? And what would you have me be and do, God?” Just in that simple Sabbath exercise of stopping to weigh and ponder, we can reap unimagined benefits. And we might even find ourselves resting, if we’re not careful…

Relate
Just how foreign does Jesus’ invitation sound to you? Are you experiencing “unforced rhythms of grace”? How?

Respond
Pray
Lord, where I am not busy enough, spur me to healthy activity; where I am over-committed and over-extended, give me the discernment and discipline to stop and to responsibly step back and away.

Practice
Begin praying over and considering your weekly rhythm and schedule. Pray about what taking a weekly Sabbath “Stop Day” would look like for you – which day would work not to work, what you would do on this day, and what you wouldn’t do.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Rendezvous | Mark 6:30-34

disciplines logo_3WEDNESDAY
Reflection 23 of 35

Reflect

The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them.  Mark 6:30-34  MSG

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The practice of stopping one day a week – of only going 24/6 – is not new for humanity. It started the day after human history began and it made it through the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. It didn’t perish when it was exported to the New World. It survived the American Civil War and was still going strong when women got the vote. It prospered in the Depression, and it blasted off at the dawn of the Space Age. Only in the last few minutes of time has it been misplaced. Where did our day of rest go, and how can we live without it? ~ Matthew Sleeth, 24/6

Constant coming and going. No time even to eat. And we say the Bible isn’t relevant to our times. We know this tune! As Sleeth goes on to observe, “We don’t just work at one thing anymore. We drink coffee and drive cars. We drive cars and talk on the phone. We talk on the phone and shop in the cloud…and fix dinner…and watch the news. In the last twenty years, work is up 15 percent and leisure is down 30 percent, and things are only going to get worse. Yet statistics tell only a part of the story. They don’t account for multi-tasking, nor do they reflect leisure time per family unit. Mom works two jobs, and so do Dad and Sis. Junior is in kindergarten, and he no longer takes a nap after lunch or goes home in the afternoon, as I did. He is in school all day…” As we entered our technological age, there was much speculation about how we’d eventually be struggling to fill our days as our workload shrank due to the efficiency of our machines. But more technology tends to free up time for us to do…more. This isn’t a guilt trip for being busy and productive. Today’s reading is just a reminder that Jesus recognized the need for he and his guys to get away and rest awhile – and also a reminder of just how challenging it can be to do that – persistent crowds of people and priorities tend to find us like heat-seeking missiles. Some calls need to be answered, even as Jesus answers the call here. But often we need to develop greater facility in utilizing call waiting, and intentionally pursue another kind of rendezvous.

Relate
To what extent do you feel you control your schedule – as opposed to your schedule controlling you? When is the last time you had a real day off?

Respond
Pray
Lord, help me develop a sense of when to get away for a rendezvous with rest. Help me to discern when calls need to be answered, and when I simply need to silence the ringer.

Practice
Plan to take a genuine, bona fide day off within the next ten days. No work. No chores. No email (at least not work email). Try being as unproductive as possible for a day – particularly if you are a bit of an overachiever. Read a book just for kicks. Take a leisurely walk/hike outdoors. Watch an old movie or two. Bask in the warmth of the sun (if available). Enjoy a nice conversation with an old friend. And through it all, breathe out thanks to God for the gift of rest as you look for his hand through it all.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Step Out of the Traffic | Psalm 46:8-11

disciplines logo_3TUESDAY
Reflection 22 of 35

Reflect

Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
breaks all the weapons across his knee.
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.”  Psalm 46:8-11  MSG

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The seventh day is a palace in time which we build…How else express glory in the presence of eternity, if not by the silence of abstaining from noisy acts? These restrictions (from “noisy acts”) utter songs to those who know how to stay at a palace with a queen.  It is one thing to race or be driven by the vicissitudes that menace life, and another thing to stand still and to embrace the presence of an eternal moment….In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil there are islands of stillness where man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity. ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

A palace in time that we build. An island of stillness where we reclaim our dignity. In Heschel’s book The Sabbath he details the Greek and Roman response to the Jewish practice of Sabbath – a response that could perhaps best be summarized in one word: absurd. It’s a word echoing with Pharaoh’s ancient accusation: “Lazy, that’s what you are! Lazy!” How inefficient, how irresponsible, how unproductive. Philo, the ancient spokesman of Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria, tried to defend to the practice of Sabbath, of stopping for one day a week, by arguing that it enhanced a man’s productivity for the rest of the week. Heschel counters, “The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work…The Sabbath is not for the sake of weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” This is the heart of Psalm 46. We get so caught up in our own superhighway of productive and recreational pursuits (yes, few things can be more exhausting than the vacations we plan or the sports we play!), that we generally manage to only switch gears at best. Stopping and taking in the roadside vista of Sabbath isn’t even part of life’s equation for us anymore, let alone the whole point of the trip. We need to learn how to stop. Again.

Relate
When you are driving, how often do you stop at a roadside vista, get out of the car, and take in the view? How often do you do this in life?

Respond
Pray
Lord, draw me out today from the chaos and ceaseless motion of life, to step out of the traffic and take a long, loving look at you, and to bask in the knowledge that you are God. Show me how to stop.

Practice
Sometime today, step out of the traffic of your routines, no matter how ill you think you can afford to and stop. If possible sit outside. Put away the cell phone. Don’t bring anything to work on either, in your head or in your hand. Stop. For five minutes. Repeat to yourself quietly as you do: “Be still and know that I am God…”

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Stop | Deuteronomy 5:12-15

disciplines logo_3MONDAY
Reflection 21 of 35

Reflect
No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as God, your God, commanded you. Work six days, doing everything you have to do, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why God, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. Deuteronomy 5:12-15  MSG

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The Fourth commandment is the longest and most inclusive of all ten. It’s placement is not by accident. The first three commandments are about God; the last six are about humanity. The fourth acts as a fulcrum. It is a bridge between the two sections. The Sabbath commandment embraces the wealthy, the slave, and the illegal immigrant. It pertains to minimum-age workers and to students. It covers animals. It includes children. The Fourth Commandment applies equally to men and women. It is made to protect those who believe and those who do not. It is to be followed by humanity, and it is observed by God himself. ~ Matthew Sleeth, 24/6

This truly is our Great Omission. We don’t know how to stop, our life like an interminable sermon in which the preacher (you and me) doesn’t know how to make an end, to use a period, and step back from the lectern. Historically, even those who have remembered to stop have tended to make Sabbath the ultimate adventure in missing the point as they force themselves into ritualistic contortions to avoid anything that might qualify as “work.” This has had the unfortunate effect of inoculating the rest of us against the whole idea, relegating “Sabbath” to the scrap yard of formerly good religious ideas. And so we end up affirming the Ten Commandments but dismissing the fourth as now irrelevant or outdated – even as others fixate on it and their required religious prescriptions for it. The reality is that we are 24/6 creatures cramming ourselves into a 24/7 mold of ceaseless, multi-tasking activity. The reality is that all his life Jesus observed a day of rest – even as he redefined and reshaped it for his contemporaries. The reality is Jesus knew how to stop. The reality is that, however we might argue about what day is “Stop Day,” or if it needs to be a whole day, or whatever – we have forgotten how to stop. To walk as Jesus walked is to relearn that skill. It is relearning how to stop.

Relate
What is your take on “Sabbath”? Do you personally know how to stop? What does this look like for you?

Respond
Pray
Lord, give me the grace to stop! Show me how to exit the expressway of my life and truly experience a rest stop with you, where I can breathe in grace. Where I can breathe in you.

Practice
Intentionally walk slower today. Take the time to notice a little more than usual what is passing before you as you walk…

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Large Work, small moves | Matthew 10:38-42

disciplines logo_3FRIDAY
Reflection 20 of 35

Reflect
If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. Matthew 10:38-42  |  MSG

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Once more, a quote from Foster: “Self-righteous service is impressed with the ‘big deal.’ It is concerned to make impressive gains on ecclesiastical scorecards. It enjoys serving, especially when the service is titanic. True service finds it impossible to distinguish the small from the large service. Where a difference is noted, the true servant is often drawn into the small service, not out of false modesty, but because he genuinely sees it as the more important task…True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended, but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Thomas Kelly writes, ‘I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.’” Back to the Great Commission and Limited Commission. Perhaps the key here is recognizing and embracing our own personal limited commission (our task) within the grander, overall Great Commission (His task). Big Hairy Audacious Goals can foster frantic activity and obsession with Big Splashes over Big Ideas and Big Impacts. But perhaps the greatest BHAG of all is to find the freedom and flow reflected in Jesus’ instructions to these twelve their first time out. I don’t hear frenzy or a “scramble of panting feverishness” in Jesus’ tone and tenor. Urgency and passion, yes. Frenzy, no. Frenzied people don’t have time to give cups of cold water to little ones. Servants of Christ do. Go, and do likewise.

Relate
How can we keep service from becoming toxic for us and those we serve? What would you say is the key to our service for others not degenerating into an “intolerable scramble of panting feverishness”?

Respond
Pray
Lord Jesus, as it would please you, bring me someone today whom I can serve.

Practice
One practice. Each day. Hopefully in multiple, unanticipated, creative ways. Don’t just choose to serve today. Be a servant today with all of the inconvenience, all the lack of recognition, all the potential humiliation that entails. Let your pride and agendas go. Be. That. Servant.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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Choosing to be a Servant | 1 Peter 4:7-11

disciplines logo_3THURSDAY
Reflection 19 of 35

Reflect
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:7-11 MSG

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A little more from Richard Foster (I’m drawing a lot from him this week. Celebration of Discipline is most definitely a recommended read!): “A natural and understandable hesitancy accompanies any serious discussion of service. The hesitancy is prudent since it is wise to count the cost before plunging headlong into any Discipline. We experience a fear that comes out something like this: ‘If I do that, people will take advantage of me; they will walk all over me.’ Right here we must see the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. When we choose to serve, we are still in charge. We decide whom we will serve and when we will serve. And if we are in charge, we will worry a great deal about anyone stepping on us…But when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.” Okay. Let me be honest. This doesn’t just stretch me. This kills me. I want to serve, but I want it to be on my terms and conditions. Period. Control dies hard with us. Yes, we need to be discerning about when we are not really serving others well when we just give them whatever they ask for when they ask for it. Yes, we all need to learn the lessons of “no” and “wait.” Yes, we need to serve responsibly. But how easy it is for our desire to control to hide in these spaces too! What Peter describes in today’s text seems to be an exuberant fusing of such responsible boundary seeking within an overall posture of zestful outpouring of whatever God has placed within us as servants first to him and then to others – because whatever we have is not ours, and because we know he will make more.

Relate
Do you agree with the distinction made between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant? Why or why not? What does “serving responsibly” look like for you?

Respond
Pray
Lord Jesus, as it would please you, bring me someone today whom I can serve.

Practice
One practice. Each day. Hopefully in multiple, unanticipated, creative ways. Don’t just choose to serve today. Be a servant today with all of the inconvenience, all the lack of recognition, all the potential humiliation that entails. Let your pride and agendas go. Be. That. Servant.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

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