An Explanation and InvitationDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heartbe pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
A word of warning: today’s reflection will be quite unusual in its focus. It will also be unusually long. I’ll get back to “normal” tomorrow.
Now that we’ve reflected our way through Christmas and Epiphany, I want to offer a word of explanation as well as an invitation. As we begin a new year, indeed, a new decade (!), I want to talk with you about these Daily Reflections, their purpose and potential.
First, let me say it is a huge privilege for me to be able to write these Daily Reflections. I’m so thankful that the leaders of Foundations for Laity Renewal value this ministry so much as to allow me to do it as part of my job. And I’m grateful that TheHighCalling.org makes a space for the Reflections and oversees their editing and emailing. I work with a wonderful team.
I’m also deeply grateful to those of you who not only receive the Daily Reflections, but also have let me know how God has used them in your life. Your notes of encouragement keep me studying, praying, reflecting, and writing.
I know that many people who receive the Daily Reflections are familiar with their format and purpose. But, for the sake of those who are new, I’d like to offer a brief explanation of what I’m doing and why, so that you might be able to use this resource even more effectively.
My purpose in offering these Reflections is to help you grow in your relationship with God. By reflecting upon passages of Scripture on a regular basis, we will get to know God more truly and intimately. As a result, we will be empowered to live out our faith every day in every aspect of our lives, thus fulfilling our high calling as followers of Jesus. When this happens, our relationships will be stronger, our churches healthier, and our shared mission in the world more effective. In all of this and so much more, God will be glorified.
My basic approach in the Daily Reflections is simple. Each day I choose a short passage of Scripture, focusing especially on one verse. I offer two to four paragraphs of reflections. Sometimes these are more exegetical and theological. Sometimes they are more inspirational and personal. Then I offer two or three questions to help you think about the biblical passage of the day and its implications for your life. Finally, I write a short prayer that responds to the Scriptural text.
You may have noticed that these prayers vary considerably in their themes and forms. Sometimes I write in the first person plural (God, we thank you . . .). Sometimes my prayers are in the singular (I thank you . . .). Sometimes there is a mix of both. When I offer a prayer in the singular, I am not trying to put my words in your mouth. In fact, sometimes my prayers are specific in a way that would not fit many of my readers (For example, “Help me to be a better father.”) When I say something like this, I’m seeking to offer my prayers as an inspiration and example for your own personal prayers. I’m inviting you to eavesdrop on my personal communication with God in the hope that this will enrich your prayerful dialogue. I realize that most devotional guides tend to be more general and less intimate in their prayers. That’s fine. But I’m trying to offer something different, something a bit more personal.
One of the sources of inspiration for my approach in the Daily Reflections is a conversation I once had with Henri Nouwen. Many years ago, a pastor friend and I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Henri Nouwen, the profound and prolific writer on Christian spirituality. When we asked Henri how we might encourage our congregations in their prayer life, he said, “Invite them into your relationship with Jesus. Share your relationship with Jesus with them.” I’ve never forgotten Henri’s wise counsel, though I have not always applied it adequately. In a very real sense, the Daily Reflections are an outgrowth of that conversation. I want to invite you into my relationship with Jesus. As you share in my discoveries, my doubts, my dreams, my praises, and my fears, I hope and pray you will be encouraged in your own relationship with Jesus, and through him with the Triune God.
I want to say something about my choice of Scripture texts upon which to reflect. My long-term goal is to make my way systematically through the entire Bible. At my current rate of progress, this will take well over a decade. So far I’ve covered Genesis, Matthew, Isaiah, Romans, Exodus, and part of Mark. You’ll notice that there is a pattern here. I’m going back and forth between the Old Testament to the New Testament. A genuine and growing relationship with God requires inspiration from both testaments. You’ll also notice that I’m varying the genres rather than progressing in canonical order (Torah, Gospel, Prophet, Letter, Torah, Gospel . . .). You’d be right to guess that, after Mark, I’ll start in on Jeremiah, then 1 Corinthians, then Leviticus, etc.
On the weekends I focus on the Psalms, reflecting upon one psalm each day. I’m doing this because the Psalter is an essential element of Christian spirituality and worship. God has given us the Psalms, in part, to teach us how to pray. Thus, with Christians throughout the ages, we engage in regular reading of and prayerful meditation upon the Psalms.
There are certain times in the year when I vary the menu a bit, usually in response to the season of the Christian or liturgical year. I recently finished a twelve-part series of reflections on the meaning of Christmas, one part for each day of the Christian season of Christmas. Yesterday’s reflection developed the theme of Epiphany. In time my choice of biblical text will reflect the themes of Lent, Holy Week, etc. (If you’re not familiar with the Christian year, you might be helped by something I have written on this topic.)
I want to invite you to join me in the adventure of knowing God through reflecting on his written Word. I would also like to ask your help in letting others know about this resource. If it seems good to you, why not tell your friends about the Daily Reflections? As you know, we are not trying to sell anything or promote any particular cause other than helping people grow in their relationship with God.
Finally, I would ask you to pray for me as I write the reflections and for all of us as we use them. When I write the reflections, as when I preach, I often let Psalm 19:14 be my prayer: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” How I pray that what I write will be pleasing to God in every way! May I write what is “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How have you grown in the past year through your own reflections on God’s Word? Would you like to know God better in 2010?
PRAYER: Gracious God, first of all, I thank you for the extraordinary opportunity you have given me to write and share these reflections. What a privilege to study your word, to pray, and to share my discoveries with others. Thank you, dear Lord, for allowing me to do this even as a part of my job!
O Lord, help me as I write, and help all of us as we reflect together, to know you more truly and intimately. Reveal yourself to us through your Word.
And may our reflections lead us into more consistent and faithful discipleship. Indeed, by your grace, may we live out each day our high calling: in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, in our families, in our churches, and wherever else we may be.
May you be pleased, dear Lord, by the meditations of our hearts, by the words we speak, and by the way we live our lives each day. To you be all the glory. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.