Today’s scripture: Romans 8:5-11 (The Message) Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self … is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what (God) is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. But if God … has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of God. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome God, in whom (God) dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, (God will) do the same thing in you that (was done) in Jesus, bringing you alive to God? When God lives and breathes in you (and (God) does, as surely as (God) did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With (God’s) Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
My thoughts (David Zier):
In this verse from Romans using The Message translation, we are once again reminded about being “stayed” on God. A result of being “stayed” on God is that we allow God’s Spirit to not only live in us, but through us. “Attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Free? A Rule will set us free? Didn’t Jesus free us from Rules?
For many of us, this concept of the Rule of Life is new. The point of a Rule of Life is NOT meant to be a point of slavery. “Rule” can imply that. So go ahead and use the term ‘Rhythm’ instead if that lightens the burden. This is not meant to be an imposition of my life, but a point of rescue. How often can I go through my days distracted, filled with sights and sounds empty of content, without really being reminded of who I am, who God is, and what my life is all about?
I consider one of the greatest gifts for my life as a pastor has been the ‘obligation’ to pray. I use the term “obligation” for three reasons. First, because I am a pastor, I should pray, and others look to me for guidance in how to do personal prayer. Second, because I teach a discipleship class where prayer is a central focus, and I have come to a place in my own formation through Seminary and a Spiritual Direction Internship where prayer is essential as a person of Faith that draws me closer to God, I am constantly aware of practicing what I preach, practicing what I have learned, and practicing what feeds me. Third, in the busiest moments of my day I am reminded of what matters, who God is, and how much I need God in my life. This is NOT a NEGATIVE obligation. I look at it as an obligation of the heart. Prayer is a continual work that feeds me, encourages me, rescues me, and leads me closer to Jesus. Yes, prayer even frees me. God knows I need it and benefit from it, especially the more I practice. In reality, WE ALL NEED IT. Rule… or Rhythm.
We all live in a variety of circumstances. We don’t walk in each other’s shoes, so we can’t point fingers and tell each other what each should be doing; even though some of us would rather do that and not focus on our own Rule of Life. Each of us should take the time praying and thinking about what our particular Rule of Life should look like and what form it should take. Our struggles are not the same. Our challenges are very different. And even if they are similar, we are each wired differently to process and handle each and every situation in our own unique ways. Each Rule of Life should match up with each of us in a way that guides us to meet Christ.
Begin with some prayerful Self-Assessment – Where Am I? How Am I Doing?
Prayerfully consider the following questions and jot a few notes to yourself.
- How do I feel about my spiritual life right now and why do I feel that way?
- What’s going well?
- Where am I feeling most challenged or distressed?
- What do I want more of? What do I want less of?
- If I could hear my own eulogy, what would I want to hear? Am I on track?
- What do I sense God most wants for me right now?
With the foregoing thoughts in mind, begin to create your own Spiritual Action Plan for 2019.
My Spiritual Action Plan – My Intentional Spiritual Goals and Rhythm
Remember: Be realistic, especially if this is your first Spiritual Plan. You can build on it in years to come. Rome was not built in a day. View this as Phase 1. With each practice or goal you set, be sure to say how/when you will do it.
- What spiritual practices are most life-giving to me? What spiritual practices do I feel God calling me to stretch and grow into? (Examples: daily prayer and Bible meditation, participation in weekly group worship, finding a spiritual small group, listening to worship music as I drive to work, giving thanks for 5 simple things every day, making a service commitment, developing a breath prayer, tithing my income, etc. For more examples and think more deeply about this, take the Soul Care Survey found at http://lifejourney.church/soulcare or pick up a hard copy of the Survey at the Welcome Desk at church.)
- Given the foregoing, what will my spiritual rhythm be? In other words, what specific spiritual practices am I going to weave into the fabric of my life – when and how often?
- What additional life practices and goals do I feel called to commit to? These goals go beyond specific spiritual practices and address the growing edges in life God is calling us to tackle. Examples: Love rather than analyze God, replace anger with grace, work less hours, exercise, eat better, spend more time with loved ones, develop a new hobby or recreational outlet, embrace my job as service to God, be less materialistic, be less judgmental, forgive my greatest enemy, let go of self-interest, see Jesus in the faces of the people around me, make a career change, etc.
- Are the goals I’m setting responsive to my self-assessment above?
- Are the goals I’m setting realistically attainable this year? Am I stretching myself too far to fast? Am I stretching myself to little?
What Will Be My Form of Accountability
What steps will I take to remind myself and hold myself accountable for keeping my Spiritual Action Plan for 2019? Some possible options are:
- Promising myself to re-read my Plan weekly and prayerfully until it becomes second nature and habit.
- Sharing my Plan with a good spiritual friend and asking him/her to pray for me and to ask me, monthly or quarterly, whether I’m keeping my goals and rhythm. (This can be a verbal ask/response or an email ask/response.)
- Have occasional conversations in my Oasis Group or other spiritual small group to discuss and share our experiences with our Plans.
- Programming my Google calendar (or similar system) to prompt me with questions/reminders about my Rule of Life.
- Creating a Vision Board.
- Other creative ideas?
Note: Begin sketching out your Plan, but don’t finalize it yet. The sermons over the next few weeks will challenge us to think about specific areas of life that we often find challenging – things like relationships, finances, body care, mental blocks, etc. These sermons may help you identify areas for growth that you want to incorporate into your Spiritual Action Plan.
At the end of the New Year’s Sermon Series, we’ll have a chance to finalize our Plans, and those who wish will have an opportunity on a Sunday to participate in a prayer for God’s help in living into our Plans.
Thought/Question for the day: So where do you find yourself today?
What do I sense God most wants for me right now? Take some time with the questions. Pray with them. Here is a Link to the online Soul Care plan that may help gather your thoughts — soul care link.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.