Tag Archives: Discipleship | Spirituality

Disciple Formation and *Raw Spirituality* by Tom Smith (a Book Review)

Raw Spirituality is written by Tom Smith, a South African minister whose heart has been formed to truly care about discipleship in the Christian community. He’s seen “discipleship” used as a sales pitch and drives us away from that in his book. He’s given us a good story on discipleship here and the end-of-chapter questions set us into a conversation with the author.

The book is Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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]

A Renovation of the Heart and True Christian Obedience

Tonight, a thought can’t be shaken away. I wonder: “What drives me to do things – especially the stuff I look back on and have to ask, ‘really? Why did that seem like a good idea?'”

As I lay there staring at spackling, an old reminder came to mind. It’s comes from a book with a forgotten title and page number. My reminder came like this:

The depths of a person’s soul, their very heart, is what God is after. Some may say that talking about “getting a good heart” is tricky, but that’s not right. God desires to form for himself a people (a person: me) to be the kind of person who naturally expresses a new kind of life. Actions and words (and inactions) all find their origin in the heart. What I do comes from the depths within (or the lack thereof).

Some say you can have a good heart but not right action. That’s not true either.

Others will say, “Don’t worry about the heart, just do the right action.” I counter: a married man ought not just think about the right gift to bring his wife, but also the reasons and desires for bringing it. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to arrive at that elderly age when you just know what to say and do and bring for your spouse – it’s like the deliberation has faded and you’re just that in love?

At that, how do we become the kind of people who live and express the kind of life God wants to nurture within us? I think it takes practice, it takes exercise, it takes surrender. I think it starts by looking at Jesus and imitating him. As we practice along (best done with others) I believe (and I’ve sensed in myself) a renewed ease with some elements of living the kind of life God desires to have within us.

So, we don’t just aim to do the things Jesus said; we aim to be the kind of person inside and outside that Jesus was and is. And, I think at the core, this is a grace thing. It’s not something I can create within myself. My own imitations will most likely be glorious failures a lot of the time. My imitations are not the goal, my character is (yet, like I wrote above, imitation shapes character and character shapes us toward a more true imitation in time)

…and in this, I think (and I hope) that God works in such an unfortunate garden as my soul. I hope the same for others too.

Isn’t Going to Church and Living Out What I Hear There Enough?

I’m feeling the weight of this question: “Isn’t Going to Church and Living Out What I Hear There Enough?” It’s not one someone has explicitly said, but I’ve discerned it in conversations. Others have too, and shared.

I appreciate the question. It makes me think about the eras in history where that’s what people did – they worshiped God, listened to teaching about Jesus, and prayed together.

…but then we also see what some of the bold communities also started to do. They got together during the week, continued praying together, continued exploring Scripture at home (once the Bible was translated and made available for the public). And this togetherness, this being the church, bloomed into loving people in the world – not in a random act of kindness way, but in an intentional getting-pretty-involved kind of way.

Back to the title question. What are we really supposed to be as Christians? Do we simply gather at the beginning of each week to hear a good story? Or, do we gather up and explore how to live this story for ourselves, to live with God here and now in Jesus?