This is post #2 in a twelve blog/podcast series entitled REAL LIFE CHRISTIANITY. In this series, we’ll look at very practical matters like how we must learn to love and honor both ourselves and others in order to be the Christ-centered followers the Master wants us to be here in the twenty-first century. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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Our Lectio Divina for today: Ephesians 4: 17-24 (MsgB)
And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.
As I see it, Paul is simply telling his friends in Ephesus…“If you really want to follow Jesus…it’s time to take out the garbage!” But the problem is this. Most Christians tend to believe that once they’ve confessed their sins to Jesus and given their hearts to Christ, the “taking out the garbage” job is pretty much done. But sadly, nothing could be further from the truth!
If you are like me, I’ve found that over my fifty-plus years of following Jesus, the “taking out the garbage” job has become a weekly event…no wait, let me correct that…a daily event in the Boller household. You see, just like in our homes across America, you and I are producing a healthy pile of garbage on a daily basis. And I don’t care how Christ-like you might consider yourself; in truth, every follower of Jesus produces, on a regular basis, garbage. I’d use a stronger word here, but some of my readers with tender ears might not appreciate that! But here’s the gut-honest truth.
I guess that’s why the saints of old gave us a tool for helping us take out the garbage on a daily basis. The tool goes by an ancient Latin word called Examen, and it’s a daily practice that helps us discern how God is working in our lives, in both small and large ways. The Examen can be broken down into five steps, which can be easily done in 10-15 minutes at the end of each day. Here are those five steps:
- Pray for God’s Help. Invite God, the Father, to be with you during this time of Examen. Allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within you, yielding to His direction. Let yourself see your day as Jesus might see it.
- Give Thanks for the Gifts of This Day. An attitude of gratitude is the most important step on your spiritual journey. Review your day and name the blessings, from the most significant and obvious to the more common and ordinary. Don’t feel that you must mechanically go through your day hour by hour or make a list of all the day’s gifts. Instead, savor whatever gifts God shows you. With God’s gentle guidance, let the day go through you.
- Pray over the Significant Feelings That Surface as You Replay the Day. Here, we are looking for our “interior movements.” Our feelings, emotions, desires, attractions, repulsions, and moods. As you reflect on your day, you may notice some strong feelings arise. They may be pleasing or painful – for example: joy, peace, sadness, anxiety, confusion, hope, compassion, regret, anger, confidence, jealousy, self-doubt, boredom, or excitement. Feelings are neither positive or negative: it is what you do with them that raise moral questions. These movements can tell you about the direction of your life on this specific day. Pick one or two strong feelings or movements and pray over them. Ask God to help you understand what aroused those feelings and where they led you: Did they draw you closer to God? Did they help you grow in faith, hope and love? Did they make you more like the Master, Jesus? Did they bring you life, wholeness or a sense of worth for both you and others? Or…did they lead you away from God, making you less faithful, hopeful or loving? Did they cause you to become more self-centered, controlling or anxious? Did they lure you into doubt and confusion? Did they lead to a day with less life and wholeness in it, destroying a sense of worth for both you and others.
- Rejoice and Seek Forgiveness. Rejoice in those times that brought you closer to God and ask forgiveness for those times today when you resisted God’s presence in your life. Praise God for the grace of awareness given to you during this time of prayer, even if you became aware of things you are not proud of. This awareness is the beginning of healing and conversion.
- Look to Tomorrow. Just as God has been with you today, so God will be with you as you sleep and when you wake up tomorrow. Invite God to be a part of your future. I have one friend who actually prays this prayer: “Jesus, I know that You are not only committed to being with me in my future…You are my future!” Ask God to give you all you need for your day tomorrow. Ask Him to grant you the grace you need, the courage, confidence, wisdom, patience, determination, or peace needed for the day ahead. Close by speaking to God from your heart, offering Him your deepest desires, ending with a scripture or prayer that is dear to you.
My suggestion is that you start to utilize this simple five-step tool in your life. You’ll find it amazing how much less stink there is in your house as you learn to “take out the garbage” on a daily basis! And, as many Christ-followers have experienced for many years, it truly sets us on the pathway to a lifestyle that glorifies God through an increasing wholeness and holiness that percolates through our day-to-day existence here on planet earth.
My prayer: O.K. Jesus…here’s the truth. My life, regardless of how good I hope to be, still produces garbage on a daily basis. Now, with that being said, I thank You that You’ve given me time-tested tools such as the Examen that helps me “take out the garbage,” and I receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to remain diligent in that job. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Am I ignoring the pile of personalized garbage that’s accumulating in my home? Am I doing the job of every life-loving follower of Jesus and taking my garbage out to the curb on a daily basis? If not, what am I doing with it, and why?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
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