Tag Archives: Discipleship

We Can Learn from All People (The Art of Spiritual Discernment)

A great development occurs in us all when we begin discerning who gives the right way and who gives the way that is dead.

“Watch their lives,” Jesus says.

Many have looked and sure enough – Jesus is right! Dead people speak dead advice. Living people speak life and vitality. We are learning from all people.

The hurdle is in coming to know what “living” means.

Yes: This development is a gift – we discover that we can learn from all people. We can respond with gratitude, even if we disagree.

Every day we’ll hear and see right and wrong, life and death. …slowly, so slowly we’ll feel ourselves lifted from the mire; we’ll see that life comes to us from those who are alive, whose lives exemplify Jesus. They are grace!

Our lives will also learn to watch, as Jesus says again, for the religious salesmen. Watch out! Nice ideas will come with promises of personal wholeness and lists of ways your life can be augmented (but never surrendered, oh no; “don’t play the weakling,” they’ll exhale so close to your ear).

It is by grace that we will come to see that what looks like and sounds like Jesus – this is what is truly alive. And, what doesn’t, well, that’s the work of the door to door religiologist. His product only works if people buy it and people only buy it if he tells you it works for all your neighbors. He strives so darn hard to draw a crowd because that’s what his faith needs to make sense of itself.

Dear Lord, work within your people. Shape us to keep company with you through obedient faith, the kind that listens for life and death as Jesus described and lived. Open our eyes; open our ears.

[Now you must determine if I am one of those salesmen, one of those religiologists. What does Jesus say?]

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence?

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence

The way is down, friends. This way to freedom.

What does it mean to “influence?” The dictionary reads: “…the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.”

How do we look at it, at the process of influence? What’s our first visual image? Someone with charisma and someone with a little less than? Someone with a good answer and someone with a little less than? Someone with _______ and someone with a little less than?

Is it the “strong” making something happen in the “weak?”

But, friends, what is “strong?” What is Continue reading

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

I picked up this book in hopes for a simple guidance from a trusted source. Like he mentioned of students in a letter to Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer said, “The kind of questions serious young theologians put to us are: ‘How can I learn to pray? How can I learn to read the Bible? Either we can help them do this, or we can’t help them at all.’”

I felt like a young student of Bonhoeffer as I read along, eating up his simple answers.

The little section I resonated most with was written like a short catechism in question and answer.

1.) Why do I meditate?

Because I am a Christian.

Because I am a preacher of the word. I cannot expound on the Scripture for others if I do not let it speak daily to me.

Because I need a firm discipline of prayer. … Prayer is not a free will offering to God; it is an obligatory service, something which he requires. We are not free to engage in it according to our own wishes.

Because I need help against the ungodly haste and unrest which threaten my work as a pastor.

2.) What do I want from my meditation?

We want to meet Christ in his word. We turn to the text in our desire to hear what it is that he wants to give us and teach us today through his Word. Meet him first in the day before you meet other people. Every morning lay upon him everything that preoccupies you and weighs you down, before new burdens are laid upon you. Ask yourself what still hinders you from following him completely and let him take charge of that, before new hindrances are placed in your way.

His fellowship, his help, his guidance for the day through his Word – that is the goal.

3.) How shall I meditate?

[Meditating on Scripture is preferable to free meditation.]

Just as you would not dissect and analyze the word spoken by someone dear to you, but would accept it just as it was said, so you should accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart as Mary did. Do not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would a sermon! Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you! Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.

This is not the place for the Greek New Testament, but for the familiar Luther text.

We begin our meditations with the prayer for the Holy Spirit, asking for proper concentration for ourselves and for all who we know are also meditating. Then we turn to the text. At the close of the meditation we want to be truly able to say a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart that is full.

What text, and how long should the text be? 10-15 verses and meditate on it over a period of a week. Whatever you do, don’t take the sermon text for the next Sunday!

The time of meditation is in the morning before the beginning of our work. A half hour is the minimum amount of time which a proper meditation requires. It is, of course, necessary that there be complete quiet, and that we intend to allow nothing to divert us, no matter how important it may seem.

4.) How do we overcome the problems of meditation?

The first rule is to not become impatient with yourself. Just sit down again every day and wait very patiently. Incorporate thoughts that come at you into your prayer later on; connect them to the text.

Read the same passage again and again, write down your thoughts, learn the verse by heart. …recognize the danger of fleeing once again from meditation to Bible scholarship and the like. Behind all our uncertainties and needs stands our great need to pray…

On Morning Prayer in Community

Before our daily bread should be the daily Word.

…an hour of quiet time and common devotion.

Although we are often not “in the mood” for it, such devotion is an obligatory serve to the One who desires our praises and prayers, and who will not otherwise bless our day but through His Word and our prayers.

…Grounded in the Scripture, we learn to speak to God in the language which God has spoken to us. We learn to speak to God as the child speaks to its mother.

…Above all, we should read the Psalms together. Then a not-too-modest portion of the Old and New Testaments should be read in series. The songs of the Church will place us in the great congregation of the present and the past. The prayer which one person speaks for the whole fellowship will bring the common concerns of the little congregation before God.

[Quotes, some modified and shortened, but meaning retained, are taken from Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 29-41]