Posts in "This Invitational Life" category / Page 2

Day 25 | Holding Back

TIL25

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

(Acts 5:1–6)

A heart that is open to God and all he is doing in the world is a trusting heart. What we see in this story from the early days of the church is a man who wanted to be a part of God’s work, but just couldn’t bring himself to fully trust God. How often do we do this? We want to trust God; we want to give everything; we want to fully participate. But something in us causes us to hold back—fear, insecurity, distraction, selfishness, greed—and we miss out on all God wants to do in and through us. Our love is diminished, the image of God within us is squelched, and the invitational life is silenced.

Reflection Questions

Reflect on a time something you said or did diminished your ability to love a family member, friend, or neighbor well.  Examine whether there was a lack of trust in God’s love, provision, or presence underlying whatever you identified. What was it?

What parts of your life are you holding back from God, unwilling to trust his love and grace? What are you afraid of?

Imagine sitting down with Jesus and sharing the part of your life with him that to date you have held back. How do you imagine him responding? What would one step be to going ahead with that conversation and trusting him to respond with love?

Prayer

God, help me to trust you more. Forgive me for holding back and being afraid to let you reign in every area of my life and corner of my heart. Keep me focused on you and let me remember your faithfulness and trustworthiness. Prevent me from distraction and fear so that your love flows through me. Amen.

Day 23 | Ambassadors of Heaven

TIL23

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Corinthians 5:17–21)

Because you have been reconciled to God through Christ and are now a citizen of heaven, you have been assigned an important job—to be an ambassador of heaven, someone who represents Christ in this world. What makes a good ambassador? A good ambassador is loyal to the king and to the kingdom he or she represents. But a good ambassador is also humble and relinquishes the need to judge others. When we embrace these two attributes, we begin to see with God’s eyes—we see people who are hurting, who need grace, and who long to be seen and loved. Once you see people that way, you have the ability to build authentic relationships and eventually, they will want to meet your king.

Reflection Questions

How does it feel to be an ambassador of heaven, a representative of Jesus Christ? How would your family and friends say you’re doing at your job? What would your everyday life look like if you lived into your ambassador title even more (think about your job, your family dynamics, standing in long lines, moments of crisis or conflict)?

Reflect on a time when you interacted with someone and came across as judgmental of their beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. If you had that interaction to do over again, what would you change?

In what circumstances or settings does representing Christ come easily for you? In what circumstances or settings does it seem more difficult? What accounts for the difference?

Prayer

God, thank you for the reconciliation you brought through Jesus and for giving me the opportunity to say yes. Forgive me for the ways I have failed to represent you and your kingdom well. Show me the places I am falling short and by your grace and your Spirit, help me to grow in loyalty and humility. Allow me to see people through your eyes and to love them as you do by listening and getting to know their stories. Amen.

Day 22 | Citizens of Heaven

TIL22

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

(Philippians 3:17–20)

As a follower of Jesus, your identity first and foremost is as a citizen of heaven. And I don’t mean you will be a citizen of heaven one day; I mean, as Paul told the Philippians, you are a citizen of heaven now. It’s easy to forget this truth, living here in our world, obsessed as it is with money, power, fame, and sex. But what Paul reminds us is that because we are citizens of heaven, our allegiance belongs not to the powers or temptations of this world, but to the king of the heavenly realm, Jesus, and our calling is to bring the culture and values of heaven to earth.

Reflection Questions

What stands out to you most as you read this passage? Why do you think that is?

How would you describe the culture of the country in which you were born? What are the three or four key values of that country? How do the culture and values of heaven compare to those of your home country?

Bring to mind one small space that you frequent—maybe it’s your office, a coffee shop, your block, a classroom. Imagine what it would be like for you to bring the culture and values of heaven to the place you selected. What do you see? What’s different?

Prayer

God, thank you for my citizenship in heaven with Jesus as king. Help me to remember this every single day when I wake up. My allegiance is to you, to your values, to your kingdom. When I get distracted or tempted to go the way of the world, running after money, sex, fame, power, or whatever else pulls at me, intervene! Remind me where my citizenship lies. Remind me that I am yours. May I bring the culture and values of heaven to earth. Amen.

Day 21 |Invited

TIL21

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

(Acts 13:2–12)

When the Holy Spirit sent Paul and Barnabas out on their first trip to spread the gospel, Paul went by the name Saul. But then he met and shared the gospel with Sergius Paulus. After Sergius Paulus accepted the invitation to know Jesus Christ, Saul began to be known as Paul. Some scholars say that Saul took the name Paul in honor of the first person that accepted his invitation to know Christ. I wonder if the two guys—Dominic and Nathan—who took me under their wing and then introduced me to Jesus are using my name today. I’d be okay with that; my relationship with them and their invitation changed my life. In fact, my desire to live an invitational life can be traced back to them. They got to know me, asked me questions, and taught me how to live.

Reflection Questions

Who has shared the gospel with you over the course of your life? How did your relationship (or lack of relationship) impact your response?

Who was the first person you encountered that really sought to live like Jesus and follow his teachings? What particular details stand out to you about that person?

Sit quietly and ask God to show you who he’s calling you to relate with, ask questions about, and show an interest in. Who came to mind? What is one step you could take to begin a relationship with that person?

Prayer

God, thank you for the people I’ve known who took a risk and shared the gospel with me. Thank you for softening my heart toward you and opening my eyes to your grace and love. Allow my path to cross with people who are longing to be seen and known and help me to listen well, ask good questions, and be a light to them. Grant me the courage to take a risk when the time is right and extend them an invitation to know you. Amen.

Day 20 | Holy Expectancy

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“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

(John 16:12–15)

We are tempted to think we have to spend hours and hours in quiet time to hear from God. Don’t get me wrong, regular times of silence and solitude are important for any Christ follower in this busy, crazy world. But in my life, the Holy Spirit has prompted me to action most often in conversations with other people and usually, I can only hear the Spirit when I’m really listening to the person across from me. I don’t understand exactly how this works, but I know when I enter into a conversation with someone with a holy expectancy, I am more likely to sense God’s presence and prompting. When I’m listening well, I grow in my ability to be guided by the Spirit and love others well, just as Jesus promised.

Reflection Questions

  • What stands out to you as you read the words that Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit? What more do you know about the Spirit after reading Jesus’ words?
  • Do you sense any resistance in your mind or heart when you think about hearing from and responding to the Holy Spirit? What is the resistance? Where do you think it comes from?   
  • How well would your spouse, children, or closest friends say you listen to them? If you’re not a great listener, why do you think that is? What do you think would help you listen better?

Prayer

God, thank you for your guidance through the Holy Spirit. Help me to enter into every conversation with a holy expectancy, knowing you are present and working as I listen with compassion. Expand my heart so that I see the act of listening to others as an act of love and a way of showing up as a bearer of your presence and grace. Guide me in every way. Amen.

Day 19 | Be Led

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

(Matthew 4:1; Acts 13:1–3)

Hearing from the Holy Spirit is one thing, but having the courage and willingness to actually respond can feel too scary. We have to be willing, as Jesus was, to be led by the Spirit to show up in the ways God is asking us. This can be uncomfortable. We might face rejection, feel awkward, or come off as strange. But God is faithful and present. He will meet his children wherever he sends them. So, you might be rejected, laughed at, or embarrassed. You might never know the impact of your words or actions from a kingdom perspective. Yet, in the midst of your response to the Holy Spirit, you will encounter the very presence of God.

Reflection Questions

  • Reflect on the last time the Holy Spirit prompted you and you said yes. How did you feel as you stepped out in faith to act? How did you experience God as you acted?
  • What most often gets in the way of you saying yes to a prompting from the Holy Spirit? Ask God to fill you with what you need to push through whatever holds you back and to help you trust you will encounter him wherever he sends you.
  • Is there anything the Holy Spirit has been nudging you about that you haven’t yet responded to as you’ve been prompted? What is it? What is one step you can take to respond and exercise your faith?

Prayer

God, thank you for the invitation to participate in your restoration of this world. Forgive me for the times you have prompted me to action and I’ve failed to respond because of fear or insecurity. Fill me with courage and send me out to share the good news, love the lonely, and extend grace and compassion into this hurting world. Amen.

Day 18 | Listen

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The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said,

“Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

(1 Samuel 3:1–10)

When we decide to follow Jesus, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us, send us to speak to certain people, and help us notice where God is already at work in the world. But we have to hear the Spirit to respond. And this takes practice and paying attention. In this passage, we read a beautiful example of how God whispered to Samuel and how Samuel trained himself to open his ears to God’s voice. Samuel’s words can be our words when we walk into work, a restaurant, or around our neighborhood—“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Reflection Questions

  • When was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit sending you to do something or say something? How did you respond?
  • What most often gets in the way of you hearing the Spirit’s promptings? Are there circumstances or seasons in which you seem to hear from the Holy Spirit more often? What sets those times apart?
  • Practice listening for the Holy Spirit. Sit quietly for two to three minutes and pray Samuel’s simple words: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” What did you hear?

Prayer

God, thank you for your Holy Spirit and the way you speak to me. I long to grow in knowing and hearing your promptings. And I want to respond in faith and without fear. Open my ears and give me a heart that listens so I can join you in the work you’re doing in this world. Amen.

Day 17 | Living Stones

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Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

(1 Peter 3:13–16)

Our very lives can act as living stones—monuments to God’s goodness and redemption—that prompt people to ask more. Perhaps the way you respond to difficult news or conflict will cause someone to wonder why you remain hopeful or seek reconciliation. Maybe your kindness and generosity to the poor or vulnerable in your community will have people wondering what motivates you. The ways you interact in the situations you find yourself in can be so compelling that the people around you will want to know why you’re choosing to live as you are. And once people start asking questions, you have an opportunity to take a risk and share the good news.

Reflection Questions

  • Who comes to mind when you think of someone who is a “living stone” to God’s goodness and redemption? What made you think of that person? What characteristics do they display?
  • What do you see when you look at your life as objectively as possible? Where do you demonstrate kindness and gentleness? In what circumstances do you have rough edges or impatience?
  • How would you respond if given the opportunity to explain why you have hope in the midst of difficulty, extend kindness to the poor and vulnerable, or seek to reconcile disputes? What is your story to tell? If you’re not sure, try writing it out and practicing it so you can share it the next time you have the opportunity.

Prayer

God, thank you for my story and the way you’ve saved and redeemed me. Thank you for all the ways you have transformed and continue to transform my heart. Illuminate the ways I don’t represent you well or provide evidence of the grace and forgiveness you’ve extended to me. Help me to surrender those parts of myself to you so I can look more like Christ in every way. Guide me in telling my story when I have the chance. Amen.

Day 16 | The Living Stone

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As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and precious cornerstone,

and the one who trusts in him

will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone,”

and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble

and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

(1 Peter 2:4–8)

In our darkest hours when our circumstances so overtake us that we forget who we are and we cannot remember a single time God has intervened in our lives, there is one thing we can cling to: Jesus. Jesus Christ is the living stone. He is the evidence of God’s love, the ultimate intervention into human history, and the commemoration of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and grace. To know and be able to tell the story of Jesus is to say yes to the invitational life.

Reflection Questions

  • Reflect on the first time you shared the gospel with someone. Who was it? What did you say? How did that person respond?
  • What hesitations do you have when an opportunity to share the gospel arises? How do you prepare yourself? Is there a particular passage of Scripture that helps you?
  • How would you share the gospel today if presented with the opportunity?

Prayer

God, thank you for Jesus and that you opened my heart to your truth and grace. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me to share the gospel. I pray that for every opportunity you grant me, you would provide me the right words and show me what the person I’m speaking with needs to hear about you. May nothing in my own life get in the way. Amen.

Day 15 | What Happened Here?

til15When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

(Joshua 4:1–7)

We are forgetful. We experience a miraculous or momentous event, claiming we’ll never forget God’s presence and intervention, but then our circumstances take a turn or we enter a season of suffering and struggle and suddenly we forget God’s faithfulness. We forget what God is capable of and we lose hope. This is nothing new. When God stopped the flow of the Jordan River to allow his people to cross into the Promised Land, he knew that over time, they would forget that he had intervened. So, he instructed the Israelites to build a memorial to commemorate what he had done. Then, for generations to come, whenever anyone saw the memorial, they would be prompted to ask what happened there. A key aspect of living an invitational life is our ability to share what God has done in our lives. To do that, we need to remember.

Reflection Questions

  • Reflect on a time you were aware of God’s presence in a miraculous or remarkable way. What “stones” do you have to help you remember that encounter? (Maybe it’s a keepsake or a song; maybe it’s a person you were with or a particular place). How do you feel when you recall God’s intervention in your life?
  • Use a timeline to map out when each of your most significant encounters with God happened. What “stone” or keepsake might help you to remember each encounter?
  • How would you describe one or two of the encounters you included on your timeline to a friend if they asked, “What happened here?”

Prayer

God, thank you for the ways you have intervened in my life whether I’ve been aware or not. Thank you that you are mindful of me. What a miracle! Help me to remember and commemorate the moments you have made your presence known in a unique way. Show me where you’ve been at work and enable me to tell your story through my own. Amen.

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