Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Together ...

Do you ever read a passage from Scripture that feels like you've never read it before?

I am making my way through 1 Corinthians and landed on a very familiar section this morning ...

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

I have been trained to read that passage from an individual point of view. I am God's temple. God's Spirit dwells in me.  I have always approached this whole topic from the perspective of me, a singular individual.

But you know what?

It is not about me. It is about us.

Read the last part again ... "God's temple is sacred and you together are that temple.

What a beautiful reminder this morning (out of the blue!) of the beauty of God's people ... together, we are the place where God's Spirit dwells.

And we should be careful to not destroy or damage that temple ... We should treat it as sacred.

Certainly puts a new twist on the church, doesn't it?

We need both ...

I often hear the argument, "I am not the kind of person who engages in spiritual practices," or "I am too busy engaging in ministry and serving others for things like prayer, reflection on Scripture or prayers of examen."

I sympathize with these arguments and I struggle with them as well.

However, I still argue that all of us, no matter our personality, need to include specific activities in our lives that allow God access to our hearts, that allow space and time for our souls to "come out," and that give our relationship with God more than mere "lip-service."

The Catholic writer and mystic, Thomas Merton, said: "He [or she] who attempts to act and do things for others and for the world without deepening his [or her] own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity for love [through the quieter spiritual practices], will not have anything to give to others."

Don't we intuitively know this is true?

When I engage in intense seasons of ministry without creating space for rest and reconnection with God, my service to others often ends up being no service at all.  Especially to those poor people I am trying to serve.

Perhaps this is why, after a period of intense engagement with the world, Jesus would often say to his disciples, "Come away with me and rest awhile ..."

Simon Chan, in his book Spiritual Theology, puts words to this: "A comprehensive spirituality stresses a balanced approach to the cultivation of the spiritual life. It recognizes that true spiritual growth consists of rightly balanced opposing acts."

Even the extrovert must make time for silence, solitude, reflection on Scripture.

Even the introvert must get up from the desk to serve and speak and engage others.

Is your spiritual life "rightly balanced?"

 

Endless Busyness

Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite writers and thinkers. He is a pastor from Canada and often writes brilliant one-liners that say more than an entire paragraph!

Here is one I've been pondering this entire summer:

"Endless busyness is earwax against God's voice and a blindfold to God's presence."

So many of us wonder why we don't hear God. We complain about not sensing his presence. And yet we run around all day and into the night like chickens with our heads cut off. Endless running. Endless noise. Endless busyness.

The diagnosis is not difficult to make.

The question always is: What are we going to do about it?

Prayer

One idea that has helped me with prayer more than almost any other comes from a Norwegian Christian named Ole Hallesby.

In his classic book, simply called Prayer, I first encountered this idea:

"Prayer is simply helplessness combined with faith."

Hallesby says more to help us understand this simple, yet profound truth:

"Prayer and helplessness are inseperable. Only those who are helpless can truly pray."

"Your helplessness is your best prayer."

"Prayer is for the helpless."

I so often find myself facing things - either internal issues of the heart, or external circumstances - about which  I feel very, very helpless. And so often I don't know how to pray; don't even know what to pray. And then I remember Hallesby's admonition that it is this very helplessness that opens the door to prayer. I just need to combine that helplessness with faith the size of a tiny mustard seed and then offer my concerns to God. And trust He will hear and respond.

Now, anyone can do that!

What is it you feel most helpless about today? Know that your helpless feelings are the very heart of prayer ... they are one of the very profound ways in which God uses our weakness to demonstrate his strength.

Helplessness + Faith = Prayer

That is a math equation I will actually make use of my whole life!