God has shaped and crafted us in unique and different ways and has invited us to participate in His story of redemption. At the same time, so much of who we are today has been influenced by the people, places and opportunities--namely, our experiences. Part of our growth as followers of Jesus is learning more about how our story and experiences fit into God’s unfolding story of redemption.
Throughout the Scriptures, God calls his people to embody his justice and mercy. Micah 6v8 is a great example: "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." There is a connection between walking humbly with God and caring about justice. The question before us is simply how to be live out the compassion and kindness of God in everyday life.
Theology and study matter because what we think affects how we love and how we act. Scripture is divine revelation. God’s own word to us. It reveals who God is, who we are and why we are here. Through studying the Scriptures we gain insights into God, human nature and the true meaning of life. The practice of study allows our minds and imaginations to be filled and formed by the story Jesus believed to be the one true story of God and our world.
God celebrates. He invented delight, joy and celebration. And one way we enter into the divine life of the Trinity is through celebration. Whether solemn or exhilarating, formal or spontaneous, celebration can enlarge our capacity to enjoy and serve God. Celebrating God does not depend on perfect circumstances or happy feelings. This world is full of brokenness, pain and suffering. Celebration doesn’t ignore the reality of pain, but declares in the face of pain that pain does not have the final word.
Sometimes the posture of Christians has been, generally speaking, one of two options. Either Christians run and flee from society and culture or fight and rail against all the things that Christians don’t like. Faithful presence on the other hand, names the reality that God is present in the world and that he uses a people faithful to his presence to make himself concrete and real amid the world’s struggles and pain. There’s an aspect of both loyalty and subversion. When the church is this faithful presence, God’s kingdom becomes visible and the world is invited to join with God. How might we then incarnate the love of Jesus in the spaces and places we find ourselves today? Why is this important and needed?
What is worship? Is it simply singing songs on Sunday morning or in the car, listening to the radio? In the scriptures, we see that, yes, worship involves our words. But we also see that worship involves action. In Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 and 5, God is worshiped. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” is what those gathered sing. And rightly so. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things and thus deserves our praise. But we also see that worship involves our bodies—offering them as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12v1). As his image-bearers, we were made to reflect his goodness and character into the world. This also is worship.
Let’s be honest, many of us feel bad, even guilty, about how little we pray. When we finally do make time to pray, we often don’t know what to say. Or we’re so distracted we can’t focus. Yet for Jesus, prayer was central to his connection to the Father. Prayer was how he connected and responded to the Father. It was the place he listened and was simply with God. And his experience informs ours. Prayer isn’t a duty, an obligation. It is being with God and listening to his voice. It is the relational center of our life with God.
In the chaos of the modern, digital age, it’s easier than ever before to “gain the whole world, and yet lose your soul.” How do we stay emotionally and spiritually alive and awake? Among the ancient disciplines of the way “silence and solitude” is a paramount practice of Jesus apprenticeship. Simply put, it’s a moment of intentional time to be alone and quite with God.
God has equipped and gifted you for His glory and for the common good.
We live in a society that is becoming more and more individualistic. We often feel like there is not enough time to live life together. But the narrative of the New Testament is that following Jesus is not done in isolation, but in community. God’s family is meant to be the “show and tell” of what true belonging and love looks like. God’s one plan for reaching the world involves a community of broken people who gather with a desire to love him and make Jesus known in the world.
In our cultural moment it’s easy to get sucked into the rat race of more and more. The practice of generosity helps us recognize that nothing we have really belongs to us. This practice also reveals what is in our heart. We are simply stewards of his wealth, his gifts, his opportunities, his houses, his cars, and whatever else you can think of. Because we have been rescued and saved by a generous God, we are invited to respond in a life of generosity.
In our cultural moment, loneliness is on the rise and community is threatened. So, what does it look like to embody the welcome of God in our life together as practitioners of Jesus’ way? Paul tells the church in Rome: “practice hospitality.” (Romans 12v13) But what does this mean? See, hospitality is not about impressing others with well-decorated homes and gourmet cooking. It’s not simply for the gifted or those with clean homes. Hospitality is a way of loving our neighbor in the same way God has loved us. Parker Palmer describes hospitality as a way of “receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas with openness and care. It means creating an ethos in which the community of truth can come from.”
Jesus and the New Testament writers are constantly quoting from and alluding to the Scriptures. They shaped how they saw God, themselves and the world around them. The Scriptures weren’t just about acquiring the right set of ideas or knowledge, but actually reading and listening to the Scriptures helps to form us into the kinds of people who can truly love God and love neighbor well. How might we become a people that are shaped and formed by the Scriptures?
Loving your enemies is probably one of the most neglected practices of the Way of Jesus. In a polarized culture and climate (like the one we find ourselves in), it is often easier to tweet about our enemies rather than actually love them. And yet, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. Let us consider together what this might actually look like.