The Slow Growth of New Rhythm

This past spring I was invited to develop a Rule/Rhythm of Life, a plan for living in such a way that fosters love for God, love for my neighbor, and care for myself.

Since purposeful engagement and intentionality is what I’m being called toward and since distraction, sloth, and meaningless activity are my personal kryptonite, I was grateful for this invitation to be intentional about connecting with God, engaging with others, and honoring my identity as God’s beloved child.

What I found, however, is that making a “Rule” and making it my “Rhythm” are two different things. Both require the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, but one happened with a few days of reflection; the other is taking much longer. 

If I want to be purposeful about my days, I need to get up and get going in the morning without getting distracted. And if I want to do that, I need to go to bed with a plan for morning and I need to go to bed at a time that allows for adequate rest. These are written into my Rule of Life — have been since the end of March — but they are oh-so-slowly becoming my Rhythm of Life. 

This morning’s sunrise run marked progress: I woke at six fully rested, pulled on my running clothes laid out last night, grabbed my Bible for Thursday morning prayer at 7:30 at the church, and headed off to the reservoir where for three miles I celebrated slow growth and new beginnings with God under a beautiful morning sky.

Now, I know that people see sunrises all the time. But I don’t. For me to be up, dressed, outside, and heading purposefully into my day by this time represents growth. I had to stop once or twice to take in the beauty and celebrate with pictures. And as I rounded the last bend, God greeted me with a tiny little rainbow right in front of me. I think many saw the sunrise today, but the rainbow just might have been God’s smile as he celebrated with me.

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How about you? Where are you seeing signs of growth in your life? Remember to celebrate them with the Giver of new life. (He might even send a little rainbow to your party just to delight your soul.)

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New Year? No Fear.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen 

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to death and Hades.”                      (Revelation 1:5-6, 17-18)

“Fear not.” Beautiful words with which to begin a new year.

“Fear not.” 

Reading the first chapter of Revelation today, I took note of Jesus’ words: Fear not. I love these two words, because at one time in my life fear had a strong hold on me. For this reason, I love whenever I find Jesus or an angel of God telling people not to be afraid.

These particular passages remind me on this first day of a new year that I do not have to be afraid. An unknown year stretches ahead of me. Events will arise that I cannot foresee and have no control over. People I love will face difficult times. I myself might. But I have nothing to fear. 

Why not? Because Jesus, my Savior, the Messiah of Israel and King of the Kingdom of God, has done great things for me. He has done great things for you. Let’s draw near and see.

First, he loves me! He loves you. His first and every impulse toward us is love. His desire for us is for our well-being and our blessing.

I can trust his heart toward me. I will not be afraid.

Second, he has freed us from our sins. This is more than forgiveness — although he has done that, too. He has provided forgiveness for our sins, taken away our guilt, but more than that he has freed us from slavery to sin. Because of him we can live good and godly lives.

He enables me to live in victory and freedom. I will not be afraid.

He also has made his followers into a kingdom. Jesus has made a people of us. He has brought the Kingdom of God to earth and invited us into it. He has formed us who were not a people into his people, his kingdom, one over which he reigns.

I am a citizen in his kingdom. I will not be afraid.

And lastly in this passage, he has made us to be priests to God. I had to look into this a bit. But I found (here) that priests’ duties in the Bible were to serve as mediators of God’s presence. Priests made offering and sacrifices before God on behalf of the people, mediating man to God. They also mediated God to man by carrying the word of God to people through teaching the law, discerning his will, and pronouncing blessings. And now Jesus has made us to be priests. He has given us the privilege of this holy commission. We are called to be mediators of God’s presence. We are called to minister offerings of worship to God and to carry his ways and blessings to others.

I am chosen as a priest of God. I will not be afraid.

To top all this off, he lives. Forevermore. These weren’t just deeds  he accomplished long ago and then stepped aside. No, he lives — continuing forevermore all he began — continuing to love us, free us, include us as citizens in his kingdom, and allow me to minister to God. He isn’t going anywhere.

And finally, this Savior who loves me and cares for me and provides a people, a place, and a calling for me, also holds the keys to death and Hades. In his death and resurrection, he has defeated and is now master over them. With him I am safe — forevermore. 

My Savior lives forevermore as victor over hell and death. I will not be afraid.

What about you? Are you anxious about this new year? Are you fearful for yourself, your family, your community, or your country? If so, draw near this living One who loves you. Get to know him better. Ask him to lay his hand on you and speak his peace into you. And step into the new year with no fear. Listen to him say to you, 

“Fear not.”

 

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 13)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Father God, as I close out my reading of Hebrews, I end with this benediction and my heart cries, “Yes!” and “Amen.”

Oh, God of peace, God of power over death, God of reconciliation and compassion, continue to be God of provision to me — equip me with everything I need to do your will, for you are my helper who is always with me.

I will continue to enter your holy place with confidence and will keep my eyes focused on you and on your kingdom, and I will live by faith. Work in me, God, that which is pleasing in your sight.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me near to the Father. Thank you for uniting with us so we may be united with God forever. You have given us life and I will, indeed, glorify you forever and ever.

God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip us with everything good that we may do your will, work in us that which is pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

Amen and Amen.

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 12)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”     (Hebrews 13:1-6)

Lord, in this last chapter of Hebrews you give us practical instructions for the practice of godly living, for living out our faith: love our sisters and brothers in the faith, be hospitable to strangers, remember prisoners and mistreated people, control our sexual passions and live faithfully in our marriages, resist greed and materialism, and be content with what we have. 

How can we do these things? They are not the norm in our culture, in our world. They don’t come naturally to us.

How can we do these things?

To answer that question, to tell us how we can live this godly life — opposite our own natures and the currents of the world — the writer of Hebrews offers us . . . you. Your presence. We can do it because you are our helper and you will never leave or forsake us. We don’t have to provide for our own security or satisfaction. We don’t have to provide for our own safety or happiness or fulfillment. You will do that, so we can be free to love rather than . We can be free to welcome rather than protect. We can be free to give away rather than accumulate. We can be free to submit rather than control. 

How can I love my brothers and sisters? 

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I welcome strangers?

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I love my husband and resist sexual temptation?

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I be content with what I have?

God is with me and he is my helper.

I do not have to provide for my own security or satisfaction.

For God is with me and he is my helper.

I am free to love and give and submit and serve.

For God is with me and he is my helper.

You are with me. Through Christ you, Yahweh — Creator, Provider, Deliverer, Sustainer, Healer, Redeemer — are with me. You will never leave me or forsake me. 

Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (13:15)

You are with me and you are my helper. 

My lips will continually praise your name!

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 11)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. . . (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Again, God, this is not a passive faith. Again, through this apostolic letter, you call us to action: lay aside distractions, lay aside sin, run the race. In the verses that follow you give us more specific descriptions of what you mean by laying aside hindrances and sin and running the race. You tell us to struggle against sin, to submit ourselves to your shaping and realignment, to strive for peace with all people, to strive for holiness, to remove bitterness, to refrain from sexual immorality and to refrain from ungodliness. 

Again, God, you call us to a life of action — so much more than “belief” — a life lived deliberately, intentionally, purposefully in submission to you. To help us in this call you, through this writer, direct us to “look to Jesus”, to consider him, to fix our gaze on him. You remind us here that Jesus persevered in obedience to you, Father, and endured hostility, pain, shame, and death with his eyes set on you and on the glory of his mission. You remind us here that Jesus was able to do it because he remained focused on “the joy that was set before him”.

For the JOY that was set before him!

It was looking ahead at joy that enabled Jesus to persevere. Perhaps we need to know more about that joy as we commit to persevering as well. And then as we read farther in the chapter you give us a glimpse of the joy that Jesus saw:

. . . you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.    (Hebrews 12:22-24)

Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, countless angels gathering in celebration, people’s names written in the Book of Life, you yourself present, your people freed from sin and condemnation, shed blood that brings eternal life, and Jesus in his eternal place as glorious mediator between God and Man , who through his suffering and obedience even to death has opened the door forever and ushered us into this joyous scene.

For THIS joy that was set before him!

Oh, God, give me an understanding of this joyous consummation. Let me taste that joy and know its goodness. Let me taste it now and long for it to come in its completion. Keep it ever before me that I may persevere, that I may live out my faith in everything I do as long as I live. I offer an active, obedient faith to you, Father, as my acceptable worship.

For you have made the joy set before Jesus, the joy set before me. Jesus has opened this joy to include me. His joy is now my joy. Your joy is now my joy. For this joy I will lay aside distractions and sin. For this joy I will run with perseverance. 

You have set joy before ME and I am grateful.

 

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 10)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith. . .                 (Hebrews 11:1-4)

We often think of faith as what we believe, an intellectual agreement with the teachings of the Bible, a conviction of the truth of the Gospel. And it IS that — look back at the scripture above. Faith is an assurance, a conviction, and an understanding.

But it’s so much more than that!

Let’s look at the rest of this chapter and see what else it tells us about faith. Here is a summary:

By faith. . .

  • Abel offered a sacrifice
  • Enoch drew near to God and pleased him
  • Noah built the ark, saved his family and became an heir to righteousness
  • Abraham obeyed, left his home, settled where God sent him, held on to God’s promises, received an heir, and offered him up
  • Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons and grandsons and worshiped God
  • Joseph believed God’s promises, anticipating the exodus and arranging for his remains to be taken to the promised land
  • Moses’ parents saved their son’s life by hiding him
  • Moses refused the safety, treasure, and status of Egypt to join his people, left Egypt, and sprinkled the blood to save his people.
  • The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land and marched around Jericho seven times
  • Rahab welcomed and sheltered the spies
  • Ancient heroes of Israel conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut lions’ mouths, quenched fires, escaped swords, won strength, became mighty, and defended their nation
  • Unnamed people refused to compromise and endured torture, mocking, flogging, imprisonment, poverty, homelessness, and death.

And why did they live like this?

You can see it scattered throughout the chapter. These people knew that God rewards those who seek him and approves of those who obey. They knew he had an inheritance prepared for them and that his inheritance was worth immeasurably more than temporal comforts. They knew there would be a resurrection. They looked forward to the Christ and the kingdom to come. They had their eyes on God and his promises.

The people of Hebrews 11 knew their future was with God and in God.

And so they lived — so they acted.

Hebrews 11 does not hold up as examples of faith people who merely agreed that God was real and loving and forgiving and then go about their lives as normal merely counting on him to step in at the end and save them from hell upon their death. This “belief” does not constitute faith to the writer of Hebrews — and it does not constitute faith to God. 

Faith is action, action based on belief. Faith (or the lack thereof) affects what we do. Faith is lived out choice by choice, action by action. Faith is doing one thing rather than another — refusing comfort when action is called for, moving in obedience when the way is not yet clear, stepping into hardship when sitting still would be easier. Faith is risk. Faith is living differently than the culture around us. Faith is drawing near to God, trusting him to act, relying on his care, living for his approval. Faith is believing that he notices and that he rewards those who seek to please him and then stepping out to do just that.

Sisters and Brothers, let us covenant to step into lives of faith.

Oh, God, you tell us that faith acts. Let us have faith that moves us to action. Grow in us faith that looks at you, that looks at your kingdom, that focuses on our lives in and with you for all time, and that shows up in how we live. Stir us up, call us forth, move us. And let us live — move, act, respond, speak, lead, abandon, go, stay, follow, obey — for you. Let us not shrink back into mere “belief”, Father — let us live in faith!

 

 

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 9)

 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10: 19-25)

Jesus, as we’ve read over and over the past few days traveling through the book of Hebrews, you have opened the way for us to enter the very presence of God. You have given us confidence that we are welcome in God’s presence and that we will be received by him. You have offered us forgiveness and we have received it gratefully.

And now, through the author of the book of Hebrews, you have called for a response from us. You have given us some instructions for our participation with God. Because we CAN enter the holy places by your blood, since we have been given access in you, you have asked us to respond.

First, you ask us to use the access provided and draw near to you. It doesn’t do much good to be given a pass if we never use it, for a door to be opened if we don’t walk through it. And it doesn’t do much good to be given access to the Father if we don’t draw near. Let me remember to draw near, Father. Call to me, Holy Spirit. Let me never become content with living life on my own, with just a belief in you but no daily connectedness. Remind me to stop my busyness, to quiet my heart, and to come into your presence.

Second, you encourage us to hold fast the confession of our hope and to not waver. You remind us that you are faithful to your promises. And because you are faithful, I can be also. Holy Spirit of God, let me not waver in my faith. Help me to hold tightly to the hope given me to me in Jesus. 

And third, you call us to live our faith in community. You call us to spur one another on in faith and to not grow slack in gathering with other believers. In fact, you say we should be gathering more often rather than less often as time passes. Don’t allow me to be deceived into thinking that my faith is a private, internal, individualistic matter. Help me, Lord, to stay connected to your Body. Let me be mindful of ways I can encourage my brothers and sisters in love and good works. And allow me to receive their encouragement and correction as well. Let us stick together when it’s uncomfortable, urging one another on in faith. Bind us together in love and commitment to one another and to you.

God, I want to live in the fullness of all you have given me in Christ. With this desire in mind, I ask you again to continually call me to come near to you. I ask you to help me focus daily on your faithfulness, that I too will be faithful. Keep my eyes focused on you. And, Lord, bind my heart to your people, the Body of Christ. Let me be committed to living life in community under your lordship.

Allow me, God, to live in the fullness of all you have given me in Christ.