Using the Beatitudes for Self Reflection and Growth

beatitudes wordcloud colorIn his book, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, Jim Forest makes a terrific recommendation: use The Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12) as a set of questions for self-reflection.

Think about the possibilities for using a few of them to prepare for prayer or worship or the start/end of the day. This kind of reflection provides a framework for discovering our blind spots or next steps in more fully following Christ.

So, here are the questions which came to mind for me.
What questions do The Beatitudes stir in you? – Lisa <><

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

  • How am trying to save myself?
  • How am I completely depending on God’s love, mercy, and grace?

Blessed are those who Mourn

  • How am I mourning my destructive thoughts and actions, my sin, my brokenness?
  • How am I heartbroken over the brokenness of my community and world? Am I becoming immune to the constant bad news?
  • How am I continuing to beat myself up over my past sins, attitudes, and mistakes?
  • What do I need to confess right now? In my confession, I am freed from the burden of my guilt and shame. I am comforted by the mercy of Christ.

Blessed are the Meek

  • Do I think too lowly or highly of my gifts, talents, and strengths?
  • How am I placing my gifts, talents, and strengths fully under the authority and discipline of God that they may be used by God for a greater good?

Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

  • What am I doing to build right relationships with God, others, myself, and the rest of creation?
  • What am I doing to build right relationship between others? In systems broken by injustice?
  • Are other appetites taking first place in my life?

Blessed are the Merciful

  • Have I forgiven those who have done me harm?
  • Do I need to ask anyone for forgiveness? If so, set the appointment now.
  • Have I rejected revenge and bitterness fully?

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

  • Who or what rules my motivation and desire? God? Others? An addiction? Myself?
  • How am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the development of an undivided heart?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

  • How am I building bridges and breaking down dividing walls in Jesus’ Name?
  • How can I more fully abandon violence, prejudice, injustice, and hate?

Blessed are the Persecuted

  • How am I loving my enemies and praying for them?
  • Am I living and practicing my faith in gracious ways everywhere I go or am I hiding it as a way of protecting myself?

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Click here for a meaningful and deep sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Webber entitled Some Modern Beatitudes.

Click here for an interesting perspective on the Beatitudes by Richard Rohr entitled How to Win by Losing. Rohr encourages us to read the Beatitudes from the perspective of how they describe Jesus as the suffering servant.

Click here for a post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled More Beatitudes. He used Jesus’ Beatitudes as a starting point for writing a few more reflecting modern issues. Consider trying this exercise as well.

Beatitudes Reflection Questions © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in worship or group setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit (Galatians 5)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 5 of 5: Pour Out Your Fruit
Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-14, 16-25 
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is the Fruit of the Spirit?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • 9 virtues (character traits) which the Holy Spirit grows in our lives
  • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)

They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.

God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.

This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.

It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.

Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?

  • Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
  • Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
  • Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
  • Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?

There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.

Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader. 

The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.

Galatians 5 is all about freedom.

Galatians 5:1
For freedom, Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
  • Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
  • Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
  • How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Galatians 5:13-14
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
  • Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
  • No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another

In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules
In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving

Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV
16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

  • a “sin list” of 15 actions
  • fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
  • idolatry, sorcery (playing God)
  • Enmities (hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy
    • Heart of peace sees people as people
    • heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
  • drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

tug of war

Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?

The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.

There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.

We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.

Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.

Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it. 

We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.

John 15:4
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.

An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.

The Holy Spirit is the seed.  The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.

Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth (John 14)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 4 of 5: Pour Out Your Truth
Scripture: John 14:16-17, 25-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/30/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Saints QB Drew Brees Shares his testimony

John 14:16-17
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

  • The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God with us right now.
  • The Spirit is with you and in you. Now and Forever!
  • God’s presence, sustaining, and blessing is all around us. You have the power to ignore and push away the Spirit. You have a choice. The Spirit will not be forced upon you.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Advocate = Helper/Counselor/Parakletos. One set from the Father. Exactly like the Father and Christ.
  • The Presence of God is a Help. The Presence is for you.

John 14:25-26
Jesus said, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

The Spirit Teaches us and Reminds us
One of Jesus’ main missions was to teach. Jesus would refer back to the Old Testament, reminding his hearers what it really meant and really said. Jesus brought the promises of God into his time period and thus our time period. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will continue to do that.

What the Spirit teaches us and reminds us is seen in how the Spirit is revealed in the Scriptures. Think 4 B’s: Bird, Breath, Blow, Burn.

holy spirit bird breath blow burn

Bird – Click here for the sign language motion

  • We are named and claimed by God in our baptism. Our true identity is found in Christ Jesus, rooted in the eternal, not in how the world wants to label and stereotype us.
  • The Love Dove of Jesus’ Baptism- The heavens were opened to Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. This is my Son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Breath- Click here for the sign language motion for breath

  • We are made alive in Christ, awakened and empowered to love and serve
  • Holy Spirit as the sacred, life-giving breath of God
  • the gift of life in Genesis 2:7
  • God instructs Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones to prophesy to the breath (Ezekiel 37:9-14)
  • After his resurrection, Jesus breathes on the disciples, offering the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23)

Blow- Click here for the sign language motion for wind

  • The Holy Spirit is God, and thus beyond our control. Like the coming and going of the wind, the movement of the Holy Spirit is unseen and mysterious.
  • We hesitate to surrender to the Spirit because we want to be in control. We’re afraid of change and loss. We know our normal and we want to keep it.
  • In the Beginning, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2)
  • “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
  • Pentecost- The coming of the Spirit was like the sound of the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house (Acts 2:2)

Burn- Click here for the sign language motion for fire

  • The fire of God reminds us of passion, our mission/calling from God, and the refiner’s fire which burns away what isn’t good for us so the gold is revealed.
  • Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • The pillar of fire leading God’s people through the darkness and across the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13-14)
  • God consuming the offering in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
  • Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by a lump of burning coal from the heavenly altar
  • God companioning and rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • God described as a Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3)
  • John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3)
  • The tongues of fire dancing on the disciples’ heads at Pentecost (Acts 2)

When you think of Fire, what comes to mind?

  • Fire takes- burn down the house, forest fire, burn my skin- sunburn, radiation treatment. Devastation. Destruction. Consuming. Devouring. If I surrender to the Spirit, what will he take from me?
  • Fire gives- candles on Christmas Eve, campfire, warmth, light.
  • We get scared of the Spirit. Not sure if we want it.

What the Fire Gives by Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace
You had thought that fire
only consumed,
only devoured,
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
and memory
of something
you had believed,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
enduring enough,
to be nearly
eternal.

So when you felt
the scorching on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
so generous,
that when it came to you—
you, in your sackcloth
and sorrow—
it did not come
to consume,
to take still more
than everything.

What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
your scalded,
astonished mouth—
though that was miracle
enough,
to have words
burn through
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
you knew—

no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
silence,
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire gives.

Holy Spirit, Pour out your truth
“That flame could be so generous.” I needed that reminder.

What we believe about God matters. If we believe God is angry, ready to punish, always watching, distant it will color everything. But if we believe God is generous, strong, good, and near, then the gift of the Holy Spirit is generous, good, and near.

We have our normal we know really well. It’s comforting and comfortable in a world that’s always changing. But, what God offers us is a new normal beyond circumstance. It is generous.

The first thing God always offers is to be heard and seen. Being before doing. God knows me just as I am. God sees me just as I am. God loves me just as I am. God invites me into all I can be.

I long to be known and seen and understood like this. That’s what I find in the presence of God. No need to hide. This knowing and seeing are so generous you can surrender to it. It is trustworthy and it is truth.

What do you most need today from the Spirit?
What do you most need to be reminded of?

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Truth © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Make Me Your Love (John 13)

Sacred Heart 3John 13:33-35
Jesus said, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Son of God
Savior
Sacrifice

Your love is Fierce and Forever
Abounding and Intimate
Generous, Goodness, and Grace

Fill me with your Spirit
Make me your love

It is your command
It is your way
It is your gift
It is You and your work

Yes, make me your witness
And yes, make me your will
But first and always, make me your love
Amen

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Make Me Your Love © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Live in Light (Ephesians 5)

woman sunlight windowEphesians 5:8-11
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Shine on Jesus
Shine on me and in me and through me
Make me a Child of Light
To be light
To live in light
To bear the fruit of light

Shine on me and in me and through me
exposing the works of my darkness to the light
Your Light

Shine on me and in me and through me
Exposing the works of darkness around me
The oppression, corruption, destruction
Exposing them to the light
Your light
Your truth, your justice
Your mercy, your healing, your love
Your ways
Your Light

Shine on Jesus
Lord of Light
Light of the World
Shine on me and in me and through me
Shine on

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This prayer was inspired by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Live in Light © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Contempt, a prayer of confession based on Mark 6

contempt painting by faun manne

Contempt Painting by Faun Manne

Mark 6:1-5, The rejection of Jesus
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of judgment, criticism, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Contempt, a prayer of confession © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ending Your Day with Reflection Questions

I read an article recently about the benefits of ending your day with several reflection questions. I’ve found the practice helpful and thought you would as well.

Reflection is an ancient practice, with references in the Bible (Lamentations 3:40-41; Galatians 6:4-5; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Ignatius of Loyola encouraged the practice with the early Jesuits, as did John Wesley with the early Methodists.

Here’s what I noticed
As you walk through the questions, you decompress and let go, you also rest in knowing where you’re headed the next day, both of which foster better sleep.

More importantly, questions like these keep us self-aware and awake to the Holy Spirit. As we answer the questions we hear from God and move forward in the journey of faith. Never forget faith is a movement. We are followers of Christ, moving forward with intentionality, constant discovery, and growth. Our growing bears fruit in our words, actions, and service to others.

I also noticed the longer I keep to the practice, the richer it becomes. It started off simple, even superficial. But as the days passed, I began to be more honest with myself. I also began to trust I could be more and more honest with God.

write journalHere are the questions I’m using. They came from several different sources. I answer them by writing in a journal.

1. What happened today?
Make a quick bullet list or write a narrative

2. Glory Sighting: Where did you see God at work in others? In and through you?
Each day can bring a new testimony to God’s grace, provision, and power.

3. What did you read/hear/learn?
Christians are lifelong learners

4. What are you thankful for?
“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

5. How are you feeling emotionally?
Be honest and seek Christ’s perspective

6. How did you fall short of loving God, others, and yourself?
Ask for and receive Christ’s forgiveness and freedom

7. What are you asking the Holy Spirit to do in you and through you?
This could be about a relationship, your work, a situation, your ministry, etc.

8. What will you do tomorrow to move forward with Christ?
Answer this in relation to question 7

What questions would you add to this list? I look forward to hearing about your time with God and to seeing the great and good changes this practice will bring in your life.
– Lisa <><

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NRSV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

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Ending Your Day With Reflection Questions © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.