A Disclaimer As We Begin Disclaimer: – I am not some Lutheran equivalent of a Zen master! – I am a simul justus et peccator recovering despiser of Word and prayer (and an Asaph-like arguer with God about my trials) learning more and more each day my need for his grace and the beauty of that grace! – Translation: This will never be easy!
Central Thought of This Session “I have learned, too often the hard way, that the devotional life is primarily to be viewed from the standpoint of God’s devotion to me rather than my devotion to him….Don’t waste your time and energy thinking otherwise!” (Prof. Forrest Bivens, “Practical Insights into the Minister’s Spiritual Growth”) God’s devotion to you is always vastly greatly than your devotion to him!
Key Perspective of All Our Sessions While you are here because you are called worker or lay leader in the Nebraska district of the WELS… …I am addressing you as a dearly loved child of God, not as a called worker or lay leader.
The Danger of Professionalism In Word and Prayer
Producers Rather than Consumers “Pastors [and all other public gospel ministers] face unique problems, I believe, in keeping fresh spiritually. For one thing, the spiritual disciplines we learned as children and young adults are now the tools of our trade. For me, scripture, prayer, and worship became overfamiliar and lost much of their mystery. It was difficult to read the Bible devotionally when I knew I had to prepare a sermon from those texts. I felt so much pressure to come up with something meaningful to say that I read the Bible as though I were on a scavenger hunt! Everything I read was directed towards others' spiritual needs and not my own. I was doing so much praying with other people in hospitals, in homes, and prior to meetings that I stopped praying on my own” (93)
Reclaiming Our Christ-Centered Lutheran Devotional Heritage Session 1: Drawing our devotional life from the gospel Session 2: Growing in the gift of meditation on the Word Session 3: Growing in the gift of Word-focused prayer Session 4: Growing in the gift of testing
“What do you believe would be the most important challenge or insight that you hope this presentation would address?” “Encourage us! Be our Barnabas. We all need it. For me especially, I treasure circuits/conferences because I don’t have any close WELS neighbors. It can get lonely, tiring, discouraging ‘on your own’…especially being a confessional Lutheran in the South. I can tell when I am dragging spiritually. (I bet my people can too.) So, I need to be filled up/encouraged by the Word and by my brothers/sisters in faith often!” My prayer is that God in his patient grace grants a double fulfillment to that request for a Barnabas!
Some Additional Resources There is a series of four essays on the Grow in Grace (wlsce.net) web site that match the emphases of our four sessions. Another additional resource – quote frequently in our outline – is Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig. – As always, all books not called the Bible must be read with discernment. Kleinig becomes a bit too enamored with “mystery” and you will also notice some of the allegory found in all too many recent LCMS products.
Yes…this is a challenge…even for Lutherans like you and me! “What do you believe would be the most important challenge or insight that you hope this presentation would address?” – Guilt for not accomplishing enough – Set us free from guilt and fear, and encourage us to cultivate [a] richer spiritual life for the right reasons – How to structure “personal growth” so it doesn’t seem like another thing “to do” – How to make Bible study and spiritual growth more than just another item to accomplish/check off on the daily list.
Here’s What Devotional Life of Word and Prayer Becomes If We Live from the Law!
Key Gospel Truth #1 Everything the 2 nd & 3 rd Commandments demand of you has been handed to you as already accomplished in Jesus’ life for you!
Key Gospel Truth #2 Jesus’ death and resurrection has removed from you every crimson and scarlet sin by which you have ever dishonored God’s gifts of Word and prayer.
Waking Up at the Empty Tomb! “For starters, let's pretend we are not pastors, we don't have our congregations to go back to, we don't belong to a synod – named WELS, we don't have the problems of our people weighing down our hearts and minds; but instead, we find ourselves in front of the empty tomb and having our Risen and Victorious Lord and Savior looking at us eye to eye and comforting us with his Word. It is here where I begin my day most every day. It is here and only here that I find my forgiveness, my security, my comfort, and my eternity. It is here that I hear and see the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is here that God rescues me from the mire and muck of life, sets my feet upon the Rock, and gives my heart a firm place to stand and a new song to sing. It is here that I see what God's love has done for me and what it is still doing to me in my daily walk of life.
Waking Up at the Empty Tomb! Brothers, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Let the cradle, cross, and empty tomb greet you every morning; otherwise – your problems, deficiencies, your flock's problems and deficiencies will instead greet you. I don't know about you but I would rather wake up every morning and have my Savior's cradle, cross, and empty tomb greet me, rather than anything else. So, my first practical advice to you, which is nothing new at all, is to read the Word, rejoice over the Word, don't focus on your workload, but instead focus and fill yourself up with what the empty tomb declares to us: GOD AND SINNERS RECONCILED!” – Pastor Marcus Schulz, “Look at What God’s Love HAS DONE & What God’s Love Is DOING to You!”, 1-2
Session #1 Wrap Up and Closing Discussion Take a moment to capture any “aha’s” from this session Take a peek at the planning pages at the end of your outline (all “aha’s” put together) Closing discussion for this session