To Walk as a Follower of Christ

The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing.

—Søren Kierkegaard

Scripture: Psalm 116.18-19

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Reflection: To Walk as a Follower of Christ
By Søren Kierkegaard

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time—as is implied in his saving work—he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness.

It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the Pattern with excuse and evasion on the basis that It, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of “loftiness.” No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination.

When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower. And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe.

Prayer

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. —Psalm 119:10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38)
Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34)

 

Present Glory

God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense, His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give, and nothing to receive.

—C.S. Lewis

Scripture: Psalm 115.1

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Reflection: Present Glory
By Steven Dilla

“There are sunrises and sunsets, Alpine glories and ocean marvels which, once seen, cling to our memories throughout life,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached. “Yet even when nature is at her best she cannot give us an idea of the supernatural glory which God has prepared for his people.”

Spurgeon’s expression of God’s glory, like the prophecy Paul quotes to the Corinthians, is future-focused. While we, as Christians, hold to the hope, we cannot miss God’s glory all around us at present. Scripture calls us to walk in glory now—to embrace the glory of God that is woven into the hearts of women and men.

“We are the special object of God’s interest and concern,” said Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Recalibrating our hearts to the present glory of God is the key to embracing the future glory, Lloyd-Jones explains in his sermon, Walk With Him in the Glory:

He knew us even before we were born, before he ever made man or created the world, he had these people whom he had chosen, and there he gave them to the Son. As we have seen, there was a great meeting of the Trinity in eternity, and the Father gave these people to the Son and he sent him on this great mission of preparing them for the eternal enjoyment of God. That is what Christianity means, just that.

All along you have been the special object of God’s interest and concern; he has loved you to the extent that he even sent his Son from heaven to earth for you, even to the death of the cross that you might be truly one of his people, that you might have a new nature, a new life, that you might be fitted for standing before him and enjoying him throughout eternity.

It is tempting to acquire present glory through circumstance, possessions, and good works—but all of these can fail us. Present glory is, for the Christian, rooted outside of the self. In failure we are not robbed of dignity; in success we are not wrapped in pride.

“The brightest glory that really can come to anyone is the glory of character,” Surgeon concludes. “Thus God’s glory among men is his goodness, his mercy, his justice, his truth.”

The Call to Prayer

Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. —Psalm 71:8-9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21)
Psalm 114-115 (Listen – 2:18)

 

Pride and Cowardice

How wretched and miserable it is to find in a person many good intentions but few good deeds.

—Søren Kierkegaard

Scripture: Psalm 108.1

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.

Reflection: Pride and Cowardice
By Søren Kierkegaard

The separation of cowardice and pride is a false one, for these two are really one and the same. The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man but with God. He wants to have a great task set before himself and to carry it through on his own accord. And then he is very pleased with his place.

The proud person, ironically, begins looking around for people of like mind who want to be sufficient unto themselves in their pride. This is because anyone who stands alone for any length of time soon discovers that there is a God. Such a realization is something no one can endure. And so one becomes cowardly. Of course, cowardice never shows itself as such. It won’t make a great noise.

Cowardice settles deep in our souls like the idle mists on stagnant waters. From it arise unhealthy vapors and deceiving phantoms. The thing that cowardice fears most is decision; for decision always scatters the mists, at least for a moment. Cowardice thus hides behind the thought it likes best of all: the crutch of time.

Cowardice and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, “Not today, but tomorrow”, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say: “Do it today. Now is the day of salvation.” The eternal refrain of decision is: “Today, today.” But cowardice holds back, holds us up. If only cowardice would appear in all its baseness, one could recognize it for what it is and fight it immediately.

Therefore, dare to renew your decision. It will lift you up again to have trust in God. For God is a spirit of power and love and self-control, and it is before God and for him that every decision is to be made. Dare to act on the good that lies buried within your heart. Confess your decision and do not go ashamed with downcast eyes as if you were treading on forbidden ground. If you are ashamed of your own imperfections, then cast your eyes down before God, not man.

Prayer: The Cry of the Church

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 21 (Listen – 3:33)
Psalm 108-109 (Listen – 4:28)

 

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?

As I grow old I find that I am more conscious than ever of my need to pray, but it seems at the same time to become more of a struggle.

―Elisabeth Elliot

Scripture: Psalm 107.1-3

He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Reflection: Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?
By Thomas Jacomb (1622–1687)

The leading of the Spirit—O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it?

What becomes of the poor blind man that has none to guide him? Of the weak child that has none to uphold it? Alas! the poor sinner, in both respects, does more need the Spirit’s leading inwardly, than either of these need external leading.

Such is our spiritual blindness—our aptness to wander, our ignorance of our way, our liableness to fall down. Without a divine hand to guide us, we are lost. Such, too, is our spiritual debility and weakness, as that, if the Spirit of God do not hold us up in our going, “taking us by our arms,” we fall immediately. How absolutely necessary, therefore, is the Spirit’s leading, both for direction and also for sustentation!

Christian prudence, caution, and circumspection, is our duty; but do we lay the stress of our confidence upon that? “The steps of our strength shall be straitened, and our own counsel shall cast us down.” So long as you think [that] you can go by yourself, the Spirit will not take you by the hand to lead you.

Would you have him to lead you? O, let your trust and reliance be upon him; and see that you renounce all confidences in yourselves. He who thinks he has wisdom or grace enough in himself to “order his conversation aright,” shall never find the Spirit to be a guide to him.

Pray much for this grace of the Spirit. How much was David in prayer to God for this!

  • “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me.”
  • “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness; make thy way straight before my face.”
  • “For thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”
  • “Lead me in the way everlasting.”
  • “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.”

O, what a desirable mercy is this leading mercy! Will you not every day make this your request?

The Call to Prayer

Come, let us sing to the Lord; … For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. —Psalm 95.1, 3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 20 (Listen – 2:55)
Psalm 107 (Listen – 4:12)

 

The Pain of Being Forgotten

Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy.

―Elie Wiesel

Scripture: Psalm 106.4

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them

Reflection: The Pain of Being Forgotten
By Steven Dilla

It’s intensely painful to be forgotten. When we’re forgotten professionally it costs the accolade of others, the promotion we hope for, or the compensation we’ve earned.

In friendship and dating, it launches a restless search for a reason.

In divorce, it cuts to the deepest parts of the soul.

In disease, like Alzheimers or dementia, it destroys dreams, lives, and families.

The book of Exodus begins in the darkness of being forgotten. In a matter of a few generations, Israel went from saving Egypt to being enslaved by them. Now they toil and suffer because pharaoh has forgotten.

Being forgotten is a fruit of the fall. It’s a condition of a broken world that people can cease to be mindful of others who are made in the image of God. It’s no wonder God’s words to Moses are the words of someone who remembers — who holds close — the cry of his people. “I have seen… I have heard… I know… I have come to deliver…”

When the authors of scripture say God remembers someone they are not contrasting it to God’s forgetfulness, but the world’s. The book of Exodus chronicles God’s remembrance of Israel alongside their pain of being forgotten by Egypt.

Evil has no regard for our well being in the world. Yet God remembers. It was the Son of God’s hands which were nailed to the cross because God refused to forget us — even in our sin. It was his body that was bruised and broken so that we could be known.

The true and greater exodus is found in God’s redemption of his people. The forgetfulness of the world may wound us deeply, but it cannot diminish, in the least, the vibrant life and work of Christ in our lives. In him we are remembered. In him we are restored. In him we are loved and known in a way that the forgetfulness of this world cannot take away.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 19 (Listen – 3:04)
Psalm 106 (Listen – 4:52)

 

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