1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: …which is your spiritual worship.
As we talked about last week, Paul emphasizes the importance of holistic worship in this passage. In these two verses, Paul writes about engaging God with our minds, bodies, will, and spirits. What does this mean, though, to engage God with our spirits? What part of us is our spirit? We can easily connect our mind with our brain and neurological activity. And we connect our emotions with our hearts (though the ancients identified their bowels and stomach with emotions – much more understandable when we think of how we get “butterflies” when we are nervous). Our spirit is not something we can so easily locate or touch.
The Scriptures seem to connect our spirit with our breathing. After all, the word ruah/ruach in Hebrew means wind, breath, or spirit. There is something about the rushing wind and the life-giving breath that connects with the spirit. Our breathing is a process of taking in and giving out. We take in the oxygen when we inhale and give out carbon dioxide when we exhale. Plants do the opposite when they “breathe” and our existences complement one another in the interdependence of creation.
To worship or connect to God in spirit is to engage in mutual relationship. We receive God’s love and grace like inhaling oxygen. We send out love and glory to God in return as if we were exhaling these in response. The spirit, then, is that part of us which reaches out beyond ourselves to the divine realm.
Intentional spiritual communion is our focus this week, as we continue to explore the four basic sacred rhythms. We ask ourselves this week: How am I reaching out beyond myself and beyond this world toward God? When we reach out in such ways intentionally and purposefully, for the purpose of connecting to and remaining in God it will shape the very core of who we are. We will often find our opportunities to worship within these times of spiritual communion. And they will in turn fuel our other experiences of the sacred rhythms. Reach out to God this week and find some times of meaningful connection with your Lord and Savior.
Journaling Focus:…so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Sometimes we might think that life is about choosing between what is bad for us and what is good for us. Sometimes, though, life is about choosing between what is good and what is best. As you build the rhythm of your life, sometimes you will be asked to give up something that is not bad in and of itself so that you can choose God’s best for you. Being able to discern between the two can be a difficult matter. That is why we need the renewed mind of the Holy Spirit. This week, reflect on this idea of good vs. best in your own life. In what ways is God leading you toward what is God’s best for you? How does this sometimes conflict with what you see as good in your own evaluation? What does God’s best look like for your life?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Read and sing the hymn Breathe on Me, Breath of God. By following the link, you can access the text and audio files for the hymn. Pay special attention to how the presence of God’s Spirit changes us when we “breathe” in the Spirit. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
So much of how we act depends on how we think. If our minds are distracted by worries or ungodly concerns, then our actions might not reflect holiness and love. This week, pray that God will renew your mind. Think of it like a reboot of a computer. Ask God to shut off all of the ungodly thoughts and reprogram your mind in grace, mercy, and hope. Trust that God will direct your thoughts and clear away the distractions.
Meditation Focus: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
I was intrigued by the picture above when I first saw it. The perfect perspective of the images of the tree trunk, branches, and rock formation form what looks like the silhouette of a person reaching up to God in the heavens. This is at the heart of what we mean when we talk about intentional spiritual communion – reaching out to God as God reaches out to us. This week, place yourself in the position of the tree and rock formation, either physically or in your imagination. Reach out to God and remain still and silent. Train your mind on nothing but God’s reality – that which you are reaching out to grasp. How will God reach back? What will you receive from God? What do you have to give? How will you both simply be together?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways have you reached out to God?
- In what ways has God reached out to you?
- How have you connected to God?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Fast from some activity that clouds your ability to focus on God. Try it with just one, mindless, time-stealing activity that you can identify from your average week. Maybe it is a time of mindless surfing or tv watching. Perhaps it is a time of listening to gossip. Maybe it is shopping for that thing you just don’t need. Replace one activity with a short, intentional moment of mindfulness fixed upon God.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, touch our spirits.