Silence and stillness are the two most radical spiritual disciplines that need to be injected into a paradigm shift of how we do discipleship in our churches. They are indispensable to slow our people down so they cultivate a first-hand, personal relationship with Jesus. My transformative experience with these disciplines took place in 2003 with a community of Trappist monks and the Taize Community in France. I remember sitting at Taize, and struggling, during the 8-10 minutes of silence that was part of each morning, afternoon and evening prayer. Yet my relationship with Jesus has changed dramatically as I slowly learned to integrate silence and stillness into my daily life. Scriptures such as the following came alive: He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Ps. 37:7 Moses answered, “Do not be afraid… The Egyptians you see today you will. Read more.
Christmas is when we remember the staggering reality that God entered human history as a baby. It is also about receiving the new things the living Jesus wants to do in us now. Let me invite you to ponder the painting, The Visitation, by He Qi and his capturing of the great story in Luke 1:39-56. First, notice Mary’s right arm protecting her womb. She knows God is birthing a precious gift inside her. She thus makes a three-month visit to Elizabeth’s house after she becomes pregnant, seeking support and encouragement for this new thing God is doing in her that is about to change the trajectory of her life. What new thing might God be birthing in you that you need to protect? Who might be a companion, a peer, a godly friend, or a spiritual director who might be able to be an Elizabeth to you as you. Read more.
Most people in our churches are living off other people’s spirituality. In fact, many are imitating a spirituality with Jesus for which they have little first–hand experience. It is easy to live off the life of God in someone else (e.g. the Apostle Paul’s handkerchief, Peter’s shadow, or Elisha’s bones) than to have our own direct experience. Anointed sermons and worship can keep people excited about Jesus and in the pews, but that may still be second-hand. The question is: Are our people developing and growing in their own personal, immediate relationship with Jesus during the week? How can we know? That is much more challenging to measure than numbers and budgets. In our overloaded culture where people are so distracted and busy, this may be our greatest challenge to effectively impact our communities. How can our people give away something (i.e. Jesus) if they do not possess Him? We invest enormous time, energy,. Read more.
In this famous story from Luke 10:38-42, we find Martha working to provide the meal for Jesus to eat and Mary sitting at His feet listening to what He has to say. Like us, Martha complains about her workload. Nonetheless, Jesus defends Mary’s act of preference. Every generation of leaders since the first century has written about this passage. Consider Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-1675) painting: I recently reread Thomas Merton’s comments on the Mary/Martha tensions in his address to monks in his book Contemplation in a World of Action (pp.244-250). Allow me to summarize a few of his insights here: The conflict of Mary and Martha is in ourselves. Having sufficient time with Jesus to sustain our doing for Him is, perhaps, the primary tension of every leader. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit invites us to prefer “the apparent uselessness, unproductivity, and inactivity of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening. Read more.
Dallas Willard has called silence and solitude the two most radical disciplines in the Christian life. Henri Nouwen said “without solitude it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life.” If solitude is the practice of being absent to people and things to attend to God, silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to Him. Yet, I have become increasingly aware, as I teach The EHS Course at New Life Fellowship Church each year, how incredibly difficult the practice of silence is for people. A core part of The EHS Course is spending time with God twice a day, five days a week using Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day: A 40 Day Journey with Daily Office. Each devotional begins and ends with two minutes of silence. That is where the problems begin. Each week we talk about different issues that arise around practicing silence such as: Why is. Read more.
I crossed an important threshold last Sunday. In my sermon on Psalm 23, I called our people to practice five minutes of silence/stillness before the Lord each day (i.e. Centering Prayer). I was clear, unapologetic, and passionate. Why? I am absolutely convinced that unless we help our people encounter God through Scripture and silence, it is virtually impossible for them to grow spiritually. Psalm 23 is a brilliant text, reminding us that we are sheep, unable to find safe pastures, discover good waters, rest without guidance, and defend ourselves. We are weak and vulnerable. Let me invite you to watch the message on YouTube or listen to it on audio. We must acknowledge the tragic reality that most of our people are living off other people’s spirituality and not developing their personal relationship with Jesus. The two minutes of silence to which we call our people in The EHS Course and a Daily Office. Read more.