12 Steps to Transformation — A Journey with God At ECV, we believe that God has the power to change lives. Many of us have had that experience. Just two simple snapshots of who we once were and who we are now tell a powerful story of God’s transforming work: changing our hearts, shaping our image of our selves and the world, setting us free. But, at the same time, each one of us, when we’re honest with ourselves, we know that there are things that never seem to change: ugly old habits that keep hanging around, broken patterns in some of our most important relationships, pictures of ourselves that just aren’t healthy. Some of us have to pause for a moment to get in touch with that stuﬀ. Some of us live there every day, seemingly beating our heads against the wall with the something deep in ourselves that just won’t change. We feel stuck. We feel powerless. We feel out of control. In December 1934, Bill W. was in exactly that place—stuck, powerless, and out of control. He was addicted to alcohol and had been for years. But he had a powerful spiritual experience that changed his life forever. He learned that coming to the place of realizing that the power to change is simply beyond your control is itself a place of power—if it becomes the impetus for opening yourself up to God’s transforming work. In time, he found that others, if they could admit their powerlessness and get in touch with God’s power could also ﬁnd transformation. Alcoholics Anonymous was born. AA’s 12 steps have helped millions ﬁnd and maintain sobriety. At their core, the 12 steps are the basic truths of the good news of Jesus—not surprising, as Bill W. and many other early AA members were part of the Oxford Group, a worldwide Christian revival. For Lent this year at ECV, we’re going to spend the season seeking God’s transforming work in our lives. And we’re going to use the 12 steps to frame our experience together: 1.
We admitted we were powerless over Sin—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could re-
store us to sanity. 3.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to everyone, and to practice these principles in all our aﬀairs. As you can see from this simple list, these steps outline a serious journey of self-discovery and disclosure before God. We will have to come faceto-face with some ugly things in our lives that often we’d rather not see. When this happens it’s very important that we distinguish between conviction and condemnation. Conviction is often something we experience when we encounter God whereas condemnation is never from God. Both come from encountering the ugly truth about ourselves. The basic diﬀerence is that condemnation is conviction robbed of hope. Condemnation says: you’re ugly, you’re broken and you’re never going to change. Conviction says: there may be ugliness, there may be brokenness, but that’s not who you are. Who you are—as God’s beloved creation—is beautiful and ii
whole. And, by God’s grace, you can become—and indeed you are becoming—this truest self. (2Corinthians 3:18) So, let me encourage you, when the journey of transformation becomes diﬃcult: remember that while God will convict us of sin, he will never condemn us. And when he does convict us, he does so in order to draw us forward to transformation into the likeness of Jesus. So, press through and listen for the hope. In the pages that follow are bible passages, some brief reﬂections, and some prompts for prayer. Each day’s reﬂections and prayer prompts were written by a member of the ECV teaching team for this season: including Josh Williams, Liz Moore, George Black, and myself. Our sincere hope is that you will meet with God in the biblical texts and interact with God in prayer. God has power to change lives. Let’s press into what God has for us in this season.
Matt Croasmun Teaching Pastor Lent 2014
* To be clear: ECV is not an AA group, even as we’re going through the steps. If you’re attending an AA, NA, or other recovery group, please continue to do so. And if, in this season, you realize that substance abuse is something for which you need help, please pursue a local group. For local meetings (include a few at United Church), you can visit www.ct-aa.org
Lent Prayer Challenges As we engage Jesus in the questions he asks, it’s crucially important that we bring the real things of our lives into the conversation. To this end, in addition to engaging Jesus on the questions that come out of the scripture we’ll look at, I also want to invite us to be intentional about praying for at least these two things:
1. for something it would take God to change in your life. What’s one thing that you would like to see change in your life that only God could make happen? Being honest about our need for transformation is more or less the ﬁrst step. Let me just encourage you: there’s something of an experimental quality to this, so, even if you haven’t prayed much or haven’t really experienced a lot of answers to prayer, take a risk and pray and see what God might do. Treat it like a “faith experiment.” Maybe God will answer your prayer; it could be the beginning of a serious faith adventure. Now, of course, we begin this journey expecting that transformation is a process that takes time. We probably ought not expect to see everything in our lives suddenly transformed over night. But let’s dare to expect to see a signiﬁcant turn towards health and wholeness. I believe God has the power to transform lives; let’s see what he will do if we oﬀer him the opportunity to work in and through us.
2. for six people in your life in New Haven who are not trying to follow Jesus who you’d like to experience more of the good things of God. We’re going to spend a lot of time in this season praying for God’s transformative work in our own lives—which is great! But God isn’t just at work in our interior lives; he’s also at work in our networks of relationships with our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. In fact, part of what we’re going to pray for in this season is that God would be transforming our relationships, healing them from the eﬀects of our brokenness. But, just to dig in that much more on this other-oriented aspect of this season, we’re also going to commit, right from the start to pray for six folks in our lives not yet following Jesus who we’d like to experience God’s best. (The reason to pick folks in New Haven is related to this: by praying for folks right here in our city, we also invest our hearts and minds in our city, in the here-and-now.) Even if you’re not sure what you believe about Jesus or about God, I’d encourage you to pray for others in your life as part of the “faith experiment” aspect of all of this. After all, if there is a God and that God has both the power and compassion to bring about good things in people’s lives, you’d want that God at work in your
friends’ lives. If, at the end of these six weeks, it seems like there’s not really anything to this faith thing, well, the practice of regularly praying for folks you care about will at least have helped you grow in love for these folks. And if God is real, then your friends may well beneﬁt from your prayer. So, as we embark on this journey of transformation together, pray about what you’d like to see God change in your life and pray for good things for your friends. (We won’t presume to pray for speciﬁc changes in our friends’ lives unless they’ve expressed speciﬁc desires for change.) In addition, I would encourage you to invite folks just beginning to consider faith to pray with you. What a cool blessing to have God answer a prayer (plus, we’ve found again and again that God is eager to answer the prayers of folks who are trying to check out who He is). I’ll tell you from personal experience one thing that can easily trip up this whole process. There’s actually a hidden ﬁrst step that can be missed: deciding what speciﬁc things, people, etc. to commit to pray for. So, take a moment right now to consider at least as a starting point: What’s one thing that you would like to see change in your life that only God could make happen? (You’ll have opportunity to reﬂect on this a bit more as part of the ﬁrst two weeks’ devotionals.)
List a handful of folks in your life in New Haven who are not currently oriented towards Jesus who you’d like to experience more of the good things of God.
Step One We admitted we were powerless over Sinâ€” that our lives had become unmanageable.
ReďŹ‚ections by Matt Croasmun
Monday, Week 1
Mark 2:13-17 13
Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 15
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Reﬂection: The scribes of the Pharisees—some of the elite religious leaders’ of Jesus’ day—object to Jesus hanging around with “tax collectors and sinners”—folks they thought didn’t have their stuﬀ together enough to be with Jesus. The scribes ﬁgure these folks aren’t Jesus’ kind of people. But Jesus says these are exactly the kind of folks he is inviting to follow him. He’s come to call not the righteous but sinners. He’s like a doctor; he’s of most value for the sick. It seems like the only folks on the outside of what Jesus is doing are the “healthy,” the “righteous”—or at least folks that think of themselves that way. Ironically, the scribes—by considering themselves superior to these “sinners”—have placed themselves on the outside. Prompts for Prayer: The ﬁrst step is sometimes summarized simply as “admitting you have a problem.” Are you willing to do that or are you tempted to think that you are among the healthy who have no need of Jesus’ healing? Engaging the twelve steps the way we are invites the comparison to addicts. Is it easy or diﬃcult to imagine yourself a sin addict? Where has it become clear that your life has become unmanageable? In what part of your life is it most clear that you are sick and need of Jesus’ healing? What would it look like to admit that you are a sinner in recovery? The ﬁrst step in inviting God to transform us—to help us become our very best selves—is simply to admit that we don’t have what it takes to do it on our own. Begin by making that confession today.
Tuesday, Week 1
Romans 3:9-26 9
What then? Are we any better oﬀ? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13 “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery are in their paths, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justiﬁed in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justiﬁed by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacriﬁce of atonement by his blood, eﬀective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justiﬁes the one who has faith in Jesus. Reﬂection: In Romans, Paul, the ancient church planter, is writing to a mixed group of Jews and Greeks. Each group is tempted to believe that, by practicing their religion, following their cultural norms, they more or less have their lives under control. Paul says that, no matter which culture we belong to or which religion we follow, we simply don’t have what it takes to live a just (or “righteous”) life. Paul insists not only that each of us sins (does things that ruin our relationships with God and with one another), but rather that each of us lives “under the power of Sin.” This is
Sin-with-a-capital-S, a cosmic tyrant that has taken control of our lives. It’s not just that we’ve made a few mistakes. Sure, nobody’s perfect. But that’s not what Paul’s talking about here. Paul’s point is that each of us has fundamentally lost control of our lives; we’re under Sin’s power. And the consequences are dire. In vv. 10-18, Paul quotes a litany of passages from Israel’s scriptures that make it clear that we’re all in the same boat: we’re a mess. But there’s good news: our inescapable injustice is more than overcome by God’s justice. It’s not about what we can accomplish, not about how many religious rules we can follow. God is able to accomplish what we cannot. God’s righteousness overcomes our unrighteousness. There’s hope if only we can admit that we’ve lost control and need rescue. Prompts for Prayer: Paul’s description of our predicament as being “under Sin” is really stark. Do you tend to imagine yourself as someone who just makes mistakes once in a while or as someone who has fundamentally lost control of your life—someone “under Sin”? Do you still have hope that, through simply trying harder—perhaps even trying harder to follow some good religious practices— you could get where you need to go? Paul seems to suggest that that sort of hope is foolishness. What would it mean for you to admit that your problems go deeper than merely trying harder? How can you make a decision today to trust not in your own righteousness—your own justice—but rather in God’s righteousness— God’s justice? The other important truth here in this passage is that the scope of any real transformation—anything of signiﬁcance we want to see change in our lives—is whole-life. That is, the sort of transformation we’re after—the kind that will last—isn’t just a matter of ﬁxing up one thing here and another over there. It’s about whole-life overhaul. The more clearly we see our brokenness, the clearer that will become. Are you ready? Are you willing to look clearly? Ask God for courage to be willing to see the full scope of your need.
Wednesday, Week 1
1 John 1:5-10 5
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Reﬂection: At ﬁrst, this passage seems like it’s making a pretty familiar point: hypocrisy is no good. God is good—100% good—so if we say we’re God’s people but we don’t reﬂect God’s goodness, then we’re deceiving ourselves. Fair enough. No one likes a hypocrite. Religious people are constantly giving God a bad name by not practicing what they preach. This is a problem. If you stopped reading at the end of verse 6, you might think that the takeaway is: so try harder; be better; stop giving God a bad name! But then there’s verse 7… apparently “walking in the light” doesn’t mean being perfect; after all, it involves the “blood of Jesus” cleansing us from our sin. Verses 8 and 10 make this explicit: walking in the light has everything to do with admitting that we’re not perfect—letting our secrets out into the light, so they can be forgiven (v. 9). This is what “walking in the light” is all about: living transparently. Prompts for Prayer: Generally our instinct when we do something we’re not proud of is to hide it as well as we can. John suggests precisely the opposite: if we’re seeking transformation, our best move is to bring all our ugliness—all our sin—into the open so that Jesus can forgive us and cleanse us from sin’s ugly consequences. This principle is fundamental to the hope we can have for real, lasting transformation. Because the goal is no longer an unattainable perfection. Rather, the goal is transparency: if we live our lives in the open, we still won’t be perfect, but we’ll be living in a way that opens us to Jesus’ transformative work. That’s good news. It’s a maxim of the recovery community: “You’re as sick as your secrets.” Today, the invitation is to stop keeping “secrets” from ourselves, from one another, and from God. In what parts of your life do you like to pretend you have it all together? John says “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” What would it look like to stop lying to yourself and admit the full extent of your brokenness?
Thursday, Week 1
Romans 7:14-20 14
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the ﬂesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my ﬂesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. Reﬂection: A German monk named Martin Luther read these words and they changed his life forever. For centuries, generations have recognized something deeply true to life in this description of simply trying harder to do the right thing— simply trying to become the people we want to be by sheer force of will. Our experience is that we simply don’t have what it takes. Somehow, even—or especially—in our “private” struggles, it seems like we’re not alone. We’re at war with ourselves—or worse. “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (v. 15) This is evidence for Paul not just that we’re weak-willed. This is evidence of what he insisted back in Romans 3 (Day 2): we live under the power of Sin. Somehow, Sin—the power of brokenness that is somehow both a power from outside and yet dwelling within us—acts in our place. This is going to take more than just trying harder. Prompts for Prayer: For Martin Luther, taking this text (along with others) seriously meant abandoning his religious eﬀorts at becoming the person he wanted to become through force of will. It turned his life on its head, pushed against much of what he had been taught, and set him on a life journey that would fundamentally reshape the world. What might God want to do in and through you if you would just stop trying to get better and instead admit that things have gotten to the point that they’re beyond what you can handle, beyond what you can control? What adventures might begin with this sort of admission? Ask God for the courage to throw in the towel on your self-improvement projects, whatever they might be. Invite God to show you God’s plans for your transformation.
Friday, Week 1
Romans 7:21-25 21
So I ﬁnd it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my ﬂesh I am a slave to the law of sin. Reﬂection: One way we can imagine that we’re going to get a handle on things in our life is by “following the rules.” This is more or less one of the ways Paul talks about “the law”—the Jewish religious law that Paul observed for much of his life. But, ironically, Paul says there’s just one “law” that he’s found is 100% reliable: whenever he tries to do the right thing, he meets resistance. Paul doesn’t get very speciﬁc about what this is, but I think we know the kind of stuﬀ he’s talking about. It’s the sort of stuﬀ that, like Paul says, seems so instinctive, that it’s almost like its just part of our bodies: our instincts, our habits, our knee-jerk responses. This is the sort of stuﬀ we can’t consciously control. What we need is rescue (v. 24). The good news is that God is oﬀering exactly such rescue through Jesus—but only if we’re able to come to the place of surrender that this passage describes. Prompts for Prayer: Where in your life have you experienced the sort of disconnect that Paul’s been talking about the last two days? Where in your life do you feel not just that you’ve fallen short of where you’d like to be, but that you’re actually just not able to do the things that you want to do? Where are you stuck? Paul’s description of his pre-transformation state is stark: he says he’s stuck in a “body of death.” As we talked about on Day 2, the fact is that real transformation always goes beyond the “presenting issue.” We’re sick; Jesus is ready to be our doctor (Day 1), but the symptoms that bring us to Jesus are usually just that: symptoms. Transformation involves being willing to see the full scope of our brokenness—what Paul calls living “under Sin.” It can feel like things are getting worse before they get better. What sorts of habits, instincts, or past experiences of pain are at war with whatever it is within you that wants to receive God’s transforming work? (vv. 22-23) Ask God to begin to rescue you from these things that seem so instinctive that they’re beyond what we can control with our conscious minds.
Step Two We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step Three We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
ReďŹ‚ections by George Black
Monday, Week 2
Luke 18:9-14 9
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far oﬀ, would not even look up toother heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justiﬁed rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Reﬂection: The Pharisee and the tax collector in the passage are presented, quite intentionally, as stark opposites. The Pharisee is a religious leader who “does all the right things,” while the tax collector is quite literally a traitor—a Judean man who collects taxes for the oppressor of his people, the Roman government, while stealing even more money from his fellow Judeans on top of the tax. Yet Jesus said that it was the tax collector who walked away justiﬁed and not the Pharisee! How can that be? Jesus tells us plainly when he says “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” The Pharisee believed that his good deeds not only made him right with God, but that they also made him better than others, speciﬁcally the tax collector right next to him. The tax collector, on the other hand, knew that no amount of personal eﬀort could save him; he needed God to do it for him. “God, be merciful on me, a sinner!” At the point that we come to terms with the fact that we cannot save ourselves by our own will, and that God is both willing and able, we experience a freedom like no other, and that freedom is the gift of a relationship with a God who is big enough to handle our shortcomings! Prompts for Prayer: In what ways have you not given your sin to God? In what ways to you even struggle with the idea asking God to take your sin and forgive you? God loves you deeply, and wants you to come to Him with all that you are. Ask God to reveal that love to you, and then ask him to show you what stops you from letting Him bring the good things he wants to bring in your life. God has what it takes to set us free.
Tuesday, Week 2
1 John 2:1-2 1
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacriﬁce for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Reﬂection: John shares with us some beautiful things about God’s heart. The ﬁrst is that God knows how destructive sin is to us and our relationships, and desires that we avoid it. “I am writing these things do that you do not sin.” The second is that even if we do sin, Jesus Christ himself is our covering. Jesus not only oﬀered his life for us, but he also advocates for us to God, constantly pleading our case so that then we do fall into sin, we are very much covered by his blood and his words. There is freedom in knowing that we serve a God who foresees the mistakes of his creation, and loves us through them, in spite of them. As we come to know God, we see that even though sin often feels unavoidable, God has made provision for us, and that provision is himself. Prompts for Prayer: What are places or areas in your life where sin often feels inevitable and unavoidable? Spend some time with God, asking him to reveal those spaces to you, and then ask him to show you what it means to trust him in covering those sins as he leads you closer to himself.
Wednesday, Week 2
Romans 8:1-11 1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the ﬂesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful ﬂesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the ﬂesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulﬁlled in us, who walk not according to the ﬂesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the ﬂesh set their minds on the things of the ﬂesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the ﬂesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the ﬂesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the ﬂesh cannot please God. 9
But you are not in the ﬂesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. Reﬂection: Last week, Paul told us that it’s not just that we sin, it’s that we’re under Sin. In this passage, he describes this in terms of enslavement to the ﬂesh—that aspect of ourselves that is aligned with Sin. Paul says it straight: it is impossible to please God when we are doing what the ﬂesh wants for us to do. Those who give their lived over to God, however, are no longer “in the ﬂesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwell” in them. When we acknowledge that God is good and we submit our will to Him completely, his Spirit, his very self, lives inside of us, and we are no longer powerless against the pulls and urges of the ﬂesh. If you are ﬁnding the ﬁght to do right feels impossible for you to win, it is because it is impossible for you to win—on your own. Only when we submit to God will we “belong” to Him, and only then can we experience the life that comes when we are free from sin!
Prompts for Prayer: Is there sin in your life that you have been attempting to overcome apart from God? What is that sin? Make a list of prevalent places in your life where you have not yet invited God into your struggle, and then pray that God would send his Spirit to enter each and every one of those spaces. Take time to see what God may be saying to you about those struggles, and how he wants to love you through them. Give thanks to God that he has the power to set us free from the patterns and cycles of Sin against which we are powerless on our own.
Thursday, Week 2
2 Samuel 11:2-6, 14-17 2
It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 6
So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest ﬁghting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” 16 As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. 17 The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. 26
When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. Reﬂection: David was a young man ordained by God to be the king of his people. God chose him when he was a young boy and helped him overcome obstacles to become king. This same David slept with another man’s wife and then killed that man as to cover up his gross error. David, like all of us, was capable of untold darkness, and when he gave himself over to his ﬂeshly desires, many people around him suﬀered. As we will ready in tomorrow’s devotional, not even David knew that he was capable of such darkness, and we often feel the same about ourselves! We would like to believe that there is sin that we are somehow “above” or “beyond”, but given the right circumstances, we are all capable of the same darkness as David. We must be brave enough to look into the darkest places of ourselves, and acknowledge the sin we are capable of if we are to ever experience true freedom from our sin!
Prompts for Prayer: Part of the reason that we often ﬁnd it diﬃcult to rectify mistakes we have made in our lives is because we are ashamed and astounded that we were capable to such sin in the ﬁrst place. Scary as it may be, have you allowed yourself to look deep enough to see the depths of your moral and spiritual condition? If not, ask God for the courage to do so, and ask him to talk with you, and to help you make sense of what you ﬁnd. (Remember, we look at ourselves honestly in God’s presence because we have hope that God has what it takes to set us free from Sin.)
Friday, Week 2
2 Samuel 12:1-13 1
The LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many ﬂocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own ﬂock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the LORD: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Reﬂection: David not only killed a man because he wanted his wife, but he also was blind to the depth of his sin. When Nathan told him a story mirroring David’s choices, he demanded that the man who committed such acts be punished! One can only imagine how hard it must have been for David to look up, only to see that the reﬂection in this mirror was indeed himself. God made it clear that David’s sin 16
would not only aﬀect him, Bathsheba and Uriah, but that it would seep into the lives of his children, both born and unborn, and eventually ripple into the entire kingdom he ruled. Sin not only breaks relationship with God, but its aﬀects are often far-reaching, breaking the relationships we have with other people. Our sin hurts others, and we must be honest with both our capacity to sin, and the eﬀects it has on others if we are to truly become free from its grip. Prompts for Prayer: It is hard enough to acknowledge that are private. It is much harder to know that our mistakes hurt people we both care about and are responsible for. As you spend time with God today, ask him for strength! Make a list of people you are aware you have hurt in the past or present, and then ask God to reveal to you sins you have forgotten and the pain that they caused. If you can, write down the speciﬁc sin you made against this person, and ask God for empathy and insight into this person’s pain. (Save this list. God will use it as a touchstone for his work of reconciliation.) There is a traditional AA prayer that coincides with the Third Step. Perhaps we can pray this prayer to align ourselves with what God is doing at this point in our journey together: God, I oﬀer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my diﬃculties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.
Step Four We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step Five We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
ReďŹ‚ections by Josh Williams
Monday, Week 3
Psalm 51:1-6 1
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justiﬁed in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Reﬂection: These honest words are the beginning of a psalm of King David, a Psalm tradition tells us he wrote after he was convicted of some really devastating mistakes. He committed adultery with a married woman, tried to conceal the resulting pregnancy, and eventually ordered his adulteress’ husband to be killed in the front lines of battle in an attempt not to sully his reputation. (See the previous two passages above.) These are ugly moves. Yet as horrible as those acts were, David believed he could still approach God. In this text, he asks for mercy and a washing away of wrongdoing. It is almost as if his sinful mistakes cling to him like a second layer of skin. David trusts that God has the power to wash away his sins and he appeals to God based on the faithfulness of God, not his own morality. It is good news that God’s compassion and his interest in transformation—truth in our inward being—results in an invitation to know ourselves as broken and to posture ourselves as students learning God’s ways in our hearts. Prompts for Prayer: Like David, we have made mistakes—recently or in the past—that weigh us down. Sometimes, we either feel disqualiﬁed from forgiveness because of how big our errors have been or we justify them based on how small or normal they are. What if we did something else? In an eﬀort to be known by God and to be known as broken, what if we listed out our sins and brought them before God believing it is His faithfulness, not our morality that will secure our forgiveness? When we trust in God’s forgiving nature, it becomes easier to confess sin– to simply share where we have missed the mark of God’s best for our lives. Appropriately, the fourth step is to “make a fearless and searching moral inventory of yourself.” On the next page, boldly and prayerfully list out sins that you have committed or unhelpful patterns or habits you practice. Listen to God’s voice of care, not a voice of condemnation, and let God guide you. Finish by writing out a prayer of confession and praying it to God—the One whose steadfast love and abundant mercy cleanses us. Trust He is with you.
Tuesday, Week 3
Proverbs 28:13 13
No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Reﬂection: This proverb, on its face, might seem confusing. After all, don’t we discover reports about deceased world leaders or iconic activists that reveal moral compromises, scandals, and disappointing truths hidden from the public eye? Certainly, these ﬁgures still prospered in ways. What if, let’s say, prospering did not mean worldly fame or even a good reputation? What if there is a much richer deﬁnition of what it means to prosper? Let’s consider the proverb again. Why might one who confesses and forsakes transgressions obtain mercy and live more freely? I think there is a fundamental experience of freedom that comes when we let someone into what we have experienced as the “darkness.” It takes work to keep things in the shadows, and it is work that, frankly, exhausts us. Confession and forsaking sin is certainly not easy, yet it does provide a clear path to obtain mercy. It brings us into the light. Prompts for Prayer: Let’s pray for God to bring His light to our lives, especially in places where we have concealed transgressions—our own or others’—and created darkened corners in our lives. Take time today to confess sin to God in prayer and take a risk and confess sin to someone you trust. God values our confessions to other people because it humbles us and, ultimately, removes shame from us as we bring things into the light. Thankfully, God promises that we obtain mercy through these actions. Wait on His Spirit to release mercy to you and enjoy the freedom that God gives through our simple acts of trust.
Wednesday, Week 3
Luke 15:11-32 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his ﬁelds to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have ﬁlled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set oﬀ and went to his father. But while he was still far oﬀ, his father saw him and was ﬁlled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his ﬁnger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25
“Now his elder son was in the ﬁeld; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with
me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Reﬂection: The story of the father and his two sons is one of Jesus’ most famous parables. It is the third in a sequence of stories about lost things prompted by one of the Pharisees, the religious experts of Jesus’ days, grumbling about how Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners. In these stories, Jesus shows the value of what it means to be found. The younger son in this parable, at a certain point, knows he is lost. His despair is so great that he can only fathom being one of his father’s hired hands, not a son. There is another lost son too: the older brother. While the younger brother knows he is lost, the older brother is lost in his anger. The older brother’s anger and bitterness blind him from seeing the work of reconciliation happening in his midst. While the younger brother prepares a confession before he even sees his father, the older brother has a confrontation when he sees his father. Even though these brothers are quite diﬀerent in the ways they are lost, the father reacts surprisingly similarly to both. The father pursues each of them: running when the younger son is still far oﬀ, leaving the party and pleading with the older brother. He listens deeply to both. He shares what he has: throwing a party for the younger brother, declaring everything he has is the older brother’s. Whether the father is responding to a confession or confrontation, he knows how to welcome lost people of any kind. Prompts for Prayer: Take time to reﬂect. Where have you been like the younger brother in your life? The older brother? Any time you felt like both? Pause and sense what God is saying to you. Is he responding to a confession you have made earlier this week? Is he drawing out a holy confrontation that you have been unable or unwilling to engage thus far? Embrace the ways God is speaking promises over the confessions you have made during this Twelve Step journey. Equally embrace the ways God is speaking truth to address areas where, like the older brother, you thought you were ﬁne. Often, God stirs up areas like that in his mercy to awake us to the reality of our need for God, especially if we are proud of other “righteous” parts of our lives. Thank God that He does come to us when were still a long way oﬀ and that God pursues us even when reject Him.
Thursday, Week 3
Psalm 139:1-18 1
O LORD, you have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I ﬂee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. 17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.
Reﬂection: This psalm is an incredible way of capturing David’s experience of God’s ever presence. God knows us. Every single part of us. The good and the bad. Wherever we go, God is there and He sees us. This can terrify us or make us in awe of God. Our response probably depends on how we view the character of God. If God is not good, then this psalm becomes a whole lot creepier and disturbing. If God is good though, this psalm is extremely comforting. This is David’s experience and his invitation for the reader. No matter where we are in life, God will be with us. Given that God already knows us and his thoughts about us are countless, it appears that He will be able to easily converse with us. In verse twelve, David even responds to a common objection that we are too distant or dirty for God to interact with Him by saying that “even the darkness is not dark to [God], the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to [God].” How might that change our conversation with God? If our darkest moments are moments where the light of God is somehow still present, then how might that change how we view our own story and the way we view and talk to God? Prompts for Prayer: If you knew you could not go anywhere from the Spirit of God or get away from talking to Him, what would you ﬁnally bring up with Him? Even as we have been exploring confession and bringing parts of our lives to the light, is there a part of your story you have been pushing aside or not talking about plainly? The ﬁfth step is “admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Does the knowledge that God is always with us and that we, truly, cannot run from Him help us in sharing the exact nature of our wrongs to God? Does being fully known help us admit our wrongs to ourselves too? Others? Today, choose to tell the whole story or as much as you can given where you are right now. Pray that story to God, take time to write it down or process it yourself, and start to consider how you can share that story with a trusted friend. Celebrate that in God knowing us—the heights and the depths—we can still rejoice that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We can trust our lives are not hidden from God and we can choose to respond with honesty to ourselves, to God, and to others.
Friday, Week 3
Psalm 139:19-24 19
O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—20 those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil! 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Reﬂection: A bit hard to believe that these verses follow yesterday’s passage, right? In some ways, it does make some sense. When we tell our story—the whole story— we often remember and realize how much people hurt us, how we felt betrayed or misunderstood, and how even as we sinned, people did sin against us. These are painful realizations, and they drive David to pray against who he calls “the wicked.” As we process our lives, we too might be tempted to lash out against those who have hurt us. David’s choice of turning to prayer, however uncomfortable to read several millennia later, is a good one among other options available to him. In fact, David does end this prayer with a call for God to search him and know his heart. David wants to know if there is any wicked way in him. This humble stance as it relates to dealing with other people is a necessary one and one that encourages God to speak and mediate in diﬃcult situations with others. Prompts for Prayer: As we struggle with processing pains caused by others in this Twelve Step journey, I think David’s path provides us with a few options. The ﬁrst is to pray that God would deal with the ones have hurt us, not for us to take matters into our own hands. In doing this, we have to trust that God is a God of justice and one who creatively acts in our world today to promote mercy. The second is for us to pray against our spiritual enemies, forces at work against God and His good purposes in the world. Thankfully, we know that God’s creation was all “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that we can pray against spiritual forces that inﬂuence ourselves and others we know without praying against people. Lastly, we are called to pray in humility to see if there is any wicked way in us, anything that God hates that we are involved in, and to accept God’s leadership as He leads us to an abundant life, not a shadow of that reality. These are steps of reconciliation that God will use to increase wholeness in us and in our communities.
Step Six We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step Seven We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
ReďŹ‚ections by Matt Croasmun
Monday, Week 4
Psalm 51:7-12 7
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Reﬂection: There are two things that distinguish a godly community from any other when it comes to sin (and neither has anything to do with being less sinful to begin with!): First, a godly community is honest about its sin (that’s mostly what we’ve been focusing on so far). But, second, a godly community has, well, God—a divine power at work helping us actually transform, helping us become our very best selves. Here, David prays for God to do what God does best: help him, a broken person, become whole again. David trusts that God has what it takes to help him change. He knows there’s a lot to do—he compares the process to being created anew (v. 10), with a clean heart and just spirit bringing him new life. Prompts for Prayer: This is really where the rubber meets the road, where we invite God to bring his power to bear on our weakness. I encourage you to pray these lines of this Psalm as a prayer today. If there are particular sins, habits, or cycles of a brokenness that are particularly heavy on your heart, pause between verses of the Psalm to name those speciﬁcally as you invite God to cleanse you. God does not withdraw because of our brokenness (v. 11). Rather, God draws near, because as the Physician who makes us well, he knows that it is times like these when we most need his presence. Finally, David asks twice to experience God’s joy as part of his restoration. End your prayer by asking to receive God’s joy.
Tuesday, Week 4
James 5:13-18 13
Are any among you suﬀering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and eﬀective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. Reﬂection: James writes this letter to oﬀer very practical advice to people trying to follow Jesus in their daily lives. In this passage, he encourages us, wherever we’re at, to go to God. If we have needs, we should bring them to God. If we experience joy, we should sing praise. There’s no state of mind or of heart that excludes us from God’s presence. And that’s good news because, as James argues here, there is power in God’s presence, power in our prayers. This is part of the power of confessing our sins to one another—we can invite others to pray for us. Likewise, when people confess to us or share their needs for transformation with us, we can believe that our prayers on their behalf are powerful. Prompts for Prayer: We’ve spent a lot of time in this season praying through our own stuﬀ, praying for God’s work in our own lives—which is great. But we each have other people in our lives that we know we’d like to experience God’s best. Perhaps one of those folks has confessed something to you in this season or shared something they’re seeking God’s help in seeing transformed. Take some time today to pray for those things. Even if someone has not shared speciﬁcs with you, let’s simply pray for God’s best for them (let’s not go praying for things we’d like to see them change!). Our prayers have power because our God is good.
Wednesday, Week 4
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 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.
Reﬂection: Jesus’ presence (the Lord’s presence) is marked by freedom. Jesus’ Spirit is with us and through that Spirit comes freedom—from our sin, from our brokenness, from our shame. Verse 18 is one of the most beautiful and complex verses from Paul’s letters. The image he paints is of looking into a mirror—which, in the ancient world, was always a bit dim, a bit hard to make out detail. So, Paul says, in our encounter with Jesus through the Spirit, it is as though we’re seeing his glory—the fullness of his status as God’s beloved—but only as through a dim mirror. But the mirror image has another payout: when we see Jesus this way, what we’re seeing is, in some sense, ourselves (that’s what you see in a mirror), as we ourselves are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness, as we come to know ourselves more and more as beloved of God. The image is full of seemingly contradictory tensions. What we see is the glory of God—but only through a mirror dimly. The transformation seems mystical—but yet it becomes real only in stages. This is the heart of transformation in God’s presence. It is at once a miraculous, God-powered process and yet also hard work whose fruit we only see bit by bit. Prompts for Prayer: This passage should give us hope to celebrate the small changes we’re seeing God bring about in our lives. How have you begun to see God’s transforming work take root in your life? Remember, while the ultimate goal is nothing less than “the glory of the Lord,” what we live is instead incremental steps “from one degree of glory to another.” Where have you seen these sorts of steps? Invite God to reveal to you the divine image he is revealing in you. Give thanks to God for the work he is doing. Ask for patience along the way.
Thursday, Week 4
Romans 6:4-11 4
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was cruciﬁed with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Reﬂection: Earlier in Romans (see Tuesday, Week 1), we saw Paul argue that our problem isn’t just that we sin, but that we are under Sin’s power. We’re actually stuck. On our own, we have no way of simply choosing to do what is right. Seeing the problem this way means that Paul knows the solution—God’s solution—must be drastic. The way Paul puts it here is this: the life we’re living in sin (here he says we’re literally living in Sin’s body) is a lost cause; the only way forward is to die with Christ and be raised to a new life in Christ’s Body (“in Christ Jesus,” v. 11). In other words, God uses the resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead to raise us to new life in which Sin and Death no longer have power over us. All of this Paul says happens in baptism, when we choose to confess publicly our dependence on Jesus and enact our participating in his death and resurrection (in going under the water and coming back up). But, whether or not we’ve been baptized, there’s still always a choice to be made, a choice to know ourselves as people being transformed in God’s presence, as “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Prompts for Prayer: How has God been inviting you in this season to “die to” aspects of your life? What habits has God asked you to lay down? What ways of seeing yourself has God invited you to set aside? As we keep being reminded in this season, we don’t have what it takes to make these changes on our own. But God does. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to raise us into new life in which we are set from from Sin’s reign in our life. Thank God today for his resurrection power—his power over death—and invite him to put that power to work in your life more and more each day.
Friday, Week 4
Romans 6:12-23 12
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctiﬁcation. 20
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctiﬁcation. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 21
Reﬂection: Here Paul continues to encourage us to live in the sort of new life that is available to us through God’s resurrection power. The central argument he makes is to compare the “freedom” we might imagine we have when living “by our own rules” to the true freedom we have in obedience to God. I think we can see the truth of what he’s saying in our own lives. “Freedom” to continue in destructive patterns is hardly freedom at all. But, when we’re tempted to turn back to patterns that are comfortable or ways of seeing ourselves that we’ve lived with for so long, these things precisely try to sell themselves to us as “freedom.” Ultimately, Paul says, this sort of “freedom” is actually slavery. Paul reminds us: The deal God gave us—new life instead of death—is a good one. Let’s not be deceived by the charms of the life we died to in deciding to turn over our lives to God. 34
Prompts for Prayer: Paul boldly makes an argument here in favor of obedience rather than what pretends to be “freedom” (v. 16). Obedience is not something our culture encourages us to seek. But, ultimately, obedience to God is what brings true freedom in our lives. Pray today that God would help you walk in obedience today—that you would hear God’s voice, discern what you hear, and walk in courage into the things God has for you. This is the beginning, the middle, and the end of our transformation with God: the life of obedience. Let’s embrace that life together and ask God to truly set us free to walk in obedience to him. There is a traditional AA prayer that coincides with the Seventh Step. Perhaps we can pray this prayer to align ourselves with what God is doing at this point in our journey together: My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.
Step Eight We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step Nine We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
ReďŹ‚ections by Liz Moore
Monday, Week 5
Luke 19:1-10 1
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Reﬂection: Zacchaeus refuses to let anything get in the way of his view of Jesus— not his height, the crowds, or his past. He was a tax collector, which meant that he was actively betraying his people by working for the oppressive Roman government and garnering a salary through extortion. We should feel the shock of those who witness Jesus invite himself over to Zacchaeus’ home—Jesus, a man who speaks the truth of God and performs miracles in the name of God is choosing to spend time with the unsavory tax collector Zacchaeus, a sinner. But when we get to Zacchaeus’ home we see that he is not there to justify his actions but to atone for his crimes, not just in equal measure but four times what he had stolen. And he oﬀers all of this, demonstrating a chance of direction in his heart, not by the command of Jesus but by simply standing in the presence of Jesus, who came to seek out and save those who are lost.
Prompts for Prayer: Often, we avoid facing Jesus because we know that he might expose not just the way our sin, our self-serving, has hurt us, but because he might reveal how our sin has hurt others and our relationships to others. Zacchaeus’ approach to Jesus takes bravery, but Zacchaeus is also seeking freedom from his past as he enters into a new way of living in right relationship to God, himself and his community. Have you been avoiding the presence of Jesus? Have you done so in order to avoid addressing friends and family who you’ve left in the wake of your self-serving desire? Would you like the freedom that comes from inviting Jesus in to restore your past? Consider that Jesus came to seek you out, even as you seek his help in these things. The task of making amends with those whom we have hurt is too daunting when we embark on it without ﬁrst knowing the Jesus who sees us as we dare to get close to him and then invites himself over.
Tuesday, Week 5
Leviticus 6:1-7 1
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 When any of you sin and commit a trespass against the LORD by deceiving a neighbor in a matter of a deposit or a pledge, or by robbery, or if you have defrauded a neighbor, 3 or have found something lost and lied about it—if you swear falsely regarding any of the various things that one may do and sin thereby— 4 when you have sinned and realize your guilt, and would restore what you took by robbery or by fraud or the deposit that was committed to you, or the lost thing that you found, 5 or anything else about which you have sworn falsely, you shall repay the principal amount and shall add one-ﬁfth to it. You shall pay it to its owner when you realize your guilt. 6 And you shall bring to the priest, as your guilt oﬀering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the ﬂock, or its equivalent, for a guilt oﬀering. 7 The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the LORD, and you shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and incur guilt thereby. Reﬂection: The book of Leviticus is found in the Old Testament and continues the story of how God was forming the Israelites to play a special role in his plans to reconcile the world to himself. Leviticus contains many of the laws and regulations that God established through Moses about how his people, though sinful and broken, could meet with him through the aid of the priestly class, the Levites. Through ritual, sacriﬁce and prayer, one could reestablish a relationship with God after one had sinned and broken that relationship. Even though we might see an act of sin as just against another person, in these verses we see that God sees sin as an act against another and against Him. So, should I steal something from my neighbor, I must right my relationship to my neighbor and right my relationship to God. Prompts for Prayer: When restoring the imbalance that results from our sin and brokenness we tend to think that either the relationship with the other OR the relationship with God needs to be restored. Rarely, to we acknowledge that both, equally, need to be addressed. Where in your life do you have areas of sin that you need to bring to God? To others in your life? Leviticus invites us to see the help of a priest to make atonement on our behalf before God to receive forgiveness. Where do you need to seek the help of Jesus, our high priest, to receive his atonement for our sin to restore right relationship to God?
Wednesday, Week 5
Matthew 5:23-24 23
So when you are oﬀering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; ﬁrst be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and oﬀer your gift. Reﬂection: This is a section coming from the most famous teaching that Jesus gave, called “The Sermon on the Mount.” In the course of the sermon, Jesus not only encourages his followers by calling them blessed (while also saying that each blessing comes through a particular kind of personal diﬃculty) but also challenges them in the way that they should live in order to experience the Kingdom of God. The verses for today reﬂect the seriousness with which he viewed breakdowns of relationship. Put in more commonplace language, Jesus is eﬀectively saying that when you try to enter into a posture of worship of God and suddenly remember a grudge that a friend has against you, get up and make things right immediately. Then return and make things right with God. This is not a polite suggestion, but a command from Jesus. Prompts for Prayer: Steps eight and nine indicate that we should make a list of those who we have wronged in order to right the relationship. While we may have a running list of those we have hurt, sometimes the wrongs that we have committed against our friends run so deep with shame or certainty that we are blind to the wrong we have done. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal our brokenness and the brokenness we have created in others. Would you consider inviting the presence of God to come and be with you? And in the time that God is with you ask him to reveal to you those whom you have wronged and the relationships that need to be restored. But there is one more step, not just for reﬂection, but for action: God has revealed this brokenness in a relationship so that you would go and restore it, in humility, in love, and in weakness. Know that the God of forgiveness is with you as you return to him.
Thursday, Week 5
Matthew 18:15-20 15
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be conﬁrmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the oﬀender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Reﬂection: When it comes to resolving conﬂict in our relationships, the question of how to do that is often interrupted by our lack of desire. As we’ve seen in earlier reﬂections this week and in steps eight and nine of recovery, making amends and resolving conﬂict to those whom we have hurt is a necessary part of our recovery and restoration. Here, Jesus is oﬀering us a pretty straightforward and helpful approach to resolve conﬂict in a healthy way. When conﬂict isn’t addressed in a healthy way, it spreads in a community like a disease through gossip and bitterness, creating more hurt and broken relationships along the way. Jesus gives us a process to address someone who hurts us: ﬁrst addressing them directly, which usually is lower on our conﬂict resolution checklist. Jesus gives us practical steps to resolve conﬂict, but in the ﬁnal verse of this section, he reminds us that in the process of reconciliation he has also given us himself. Prompts for Prayer: The steps for this week ask us to make a list of all the people that we have harmed and become willing to make amends with them. Have you considered making a similar kind of list? If not, what’s holding you back? The challenge we receive from AA, and from Jesus is to actively work to restore these relationships. This passage not only gives us a method to approach conversations of reconciliation, but also shapes how we can receive them. Ask God to prepare you as you enter into these conversations. Ask God to be with you in the midst of these conversations. Remember that when we try to resolve conﬂict by ourselves we seek only to self-justify, but when we, in humility, meet with others to restore relationship we gain Jesus himself.
Friday, Week 5
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 16
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Reﬂection: Paul, a member of the early church and one who spread the good news of Jesus across the ancient world, is writing to the church in Corinth to help encourage them to live into the new lives given to them by Jesus’ life oﬀered on the cross to reconcile us to God. Paul himself is no stranger to the regrets of a former life as he was one who hunted and murdered followers of Jesus, had an profound encounter with Jesus and was then transformed into someone who was a key builder of the early church (for more of Paul’s story check out Acts 9). So these words from Paul to us are not just wishful thinking, but something that he is experiencing ﬁrst hand. He is a new creation, no longer one who persecutes Christians but one who has a ministry of reconciliation—he is now one who reconciles people to God. His call to the early church here is one of continued movement forward, as they know themselves as new people and as they are invited to share with others the love and peace and grace they have received through Jesus. Prompts for Prayer: As Paul says in this passage, we can be made into a new creation, that everything old and broken in us can be made new as we embark in relationship with Jesus. That as we are united to Jesus we are able to become more like the people we were made to be. Sometimes parts of this “newness” happens quickly and sometimes this happens over a period of years. Where are you longing to see “everything become new” in your life with the help of Jesus? Have you considered that your experiences of seeing the old things in your life pass away might make you a reconciler of people to Jesus? Ask God where he would like you to act as an ambassador from the Kingdom of God to broken places and people we see in the world around us.
Step Ten We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step Eleven We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
ReďŹ‚ections by Josh Williams
Monday, Week 6
Matthew 26:69-75 69
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Reﬂection: Peter’s denial of Jesus is an iconic moment of disobedience in the life of faith. Days before, Peter conﬁdently asserts he would never disown Jesus. Yet, he does. It is easy for us to point a ﬁnger at Peter’s failure, but I wonder if we ﬁnd ourselves in similar situations. When it is expedient do we detach ourselves from Jesus? Do we sometimes blatantly do things we have pledged not to do—even if our actions loosen a bond of trust with God or ignore a conviction we sensed was right? As a disciple of Jesus, Peter walked with Jesus day by day, side by side. So, what happened? For Peter, he gave into fear. What if I get caught? What if I am deﬁned by Jesus and that truth brings bad things into my life? Peter’s fear stirs confusion. Peter’s confusion results in disobedience. This cycle of sin is incredibly damaging, and it drives Peter to despair. Prompts for Prayer: Where do we see ourselves straying from attachment to Jesus, whether we are considering faith for the ﬁrst time or if we have been following Jesus for a long time? Is our attempt to distance ourselves from Jesus part of a pattern or bigger issue? The tenth step is “continue to take personal inventory when we are wrong and promptly admit it.” This is a process where continuing is important as we build persistence in obedience. Spend time dialoguing with Jesus about ways you separate your heart and mind from him. Like Peter, choose to mourn that loss. Pray, journal, or even create art in response to this story and be encouraged that Peter, just like us, experienced transformation and saw his cowardice become courage in his lifetime.
Tuesday, Week 6
Romans 8:12-17 12
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the ﬂesh, to live according to the ﬂesh—13 for if you live according to the ﬂesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suﬀer with him so that we may also be gloriﬁed with him. Reﬂection: Today’s passage focuses a lot on the Holy Spirit. If you wondered yesterday how Peter changed from someone who denied Jesus to the one who helped found the church, then you wondered about the work of the Holy Spirit. The eleventh step is “to improve our conscious contact with God praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” This step acknowledges that the Twelve Step journey is a spiritual one and that we need God’s will and God’s power to walk it out. Seeing our lives as material and spiritual might be new for some of us, but it is fundamental to understanding Paul, the early church planter who wrote this letter to the church in Rome. Paul suggests that we can receive diﬀerent kinds of spirits: one is a spirit that enslaves us to fear and one is a spirit that adopts us into the family of God. The latter is a Spirit that invites us into relationship. It is not our own perfection that marks us as children of God; instead, it is the work of the Spirit that draws us into loving family with God and others. This is good news for our journey of transformation. The one who is transforming us is the same one who invites us to belong as we are being changed not as a result of any perfection that we have undertaken. Prompts for Prayer: Paul says that when we cry “Father!” the Spirit bears witness to our connection with God. In other words, when we make our faith relational the Spirit adopts us further and more deeply into relationship. Take time today to relate to God personally. Address him and welcome the Spirit’s presence in your midst. If there is an area of slavery in your life prompted by fear, then ask the Spirit to bear witness there. Be open to how God wants to meet you through His Spirit.
Wednesday, Week 6
Romans 8:18-30 18
I consider that the suﬀerings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the ﬁrst fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the ﬁrstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justiﬁed; and those whom he justiﬁed he also gloriﬁed. Reﬂection: All of creation is groaning for redemption, the restoration of all things! Not only is creation groaning, but we are groaning too. Somehow, our groans have power through God’s spirit. As we have sought to take a personal inventory of wrong and to grow with God, we may have struggled with hope. Am I really going to change? Is God real and if He is, does He care? Does He have power? Thankfully, hope does not come from what we see. Ultimately, hope is born out of faithful waiting, a time where we can build expectancy for what God will do. We do not wait alone. God’s Spirit waits with us. Paul even says that the Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray. If this journey has every brought you to a place of silence where words have not been enough, be encouraged that the Spirit interceded for you in that time. I think one prayer the Spirit prays over us is “that all 48
things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” No matter where we are on this journey of transformation we can choose for the love of God to deﬁne us and trust the God who promises to work all things out for our good. Prompts for Prayer: Where have you been tempted to lose hope during this journey? Bring that area before God. Have you been groaning about it? Silent regarding that issue? Be encouraged that God has been turning your groans into prayer and interceding on your behalf. Take time to be still and to feel God work within you. Let him give you hope. After that, reﬂect with God about His prayer for you. How is God interceding for you? Take to listen to God’s voice and write down what you feel is His prayer for you. Thank God for the promise of working all things out in your life.
Thursday, Week 6
Romans 12:1-2 1
I 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. 2 Do 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. Reﬂection: Paul sees transformation as a full experience: mind, body, and spirit. I am reminded of a story from a local ministry where during the time of oﬀering gifts to God someone literally placed themselves by the oﬀering table to give themselves away. That is one way of looking at presenting our bodies as a living sacriﬁce. Whenever we position ourselves to be given to God, we resist a temptation simply to consume and to absorb the ways of the world: the good, the bad, and the indiﬀerent. There is an alertness that comes from oﬀering yourself over to God and Paul describes a transformation that comes from our minds being renewed. Often, we view the mind as the last place of transformation. Can we really change unhelpful thought patterns? Deeply ingrained habits or tendencies that enable bad choices? To God, our mind is simply another place to experience renewal. Something about this restorative process brings us closer to God’s will, God’s good, perfect, and pleasing plans for our lives. Prompts for Prayer: Has doing the Twelve Steps been a way you have oﬀered yourself to God? How might you be able to oﬀer yourself through it? Additionally, ask God to bring to mind a thought pattern or habit that has begun to change since starting the Steps. Thank Him for being at work. Is there another thought pattern that you want to bring before God? Reﬂect on how not being conformed to this world, the regular patterns of doing things, can free you and renew your mind.
Friday, Week 6
Luke 22:32-49 32
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they cruciﬁed Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoﬀed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and oﬀering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Reﬂection: Today is a day of mourning. In his journey to the cross, Jesus faced ridicule, physical suﬀering, and abandonment. Ultimately, he experienced death. Jesus died next to ordinary criminals. Even at the scene of his death, Jesus related to sinners extending mercy to the criminal who asked for it. Jesus, one marked by innocence, is surrounded by sin and brokenness. This horrible place is also the only place where Jesus could have been obedient. There was no other place to run. Jesus remains and obeys even forgiving those who harmed him. Where will obedience take us? If it is obedience to Jesus, it will look like self-sacriﬁce—perhaps, even days where the pain and anguish of the cross seems very close and real to us. The eleventh step reminds us to improve our contact with God, and it is important to remember that the suﬀering of Jesus is a way we can draw near to Him. Through suﬀering and dying, Jesus allows us to suﬀer with him, not alone. Prompts for Prayer: Where in your journey of transformation have you stepped into suﬀering? Has it been hard to be reminded of sin, brokenness, and ways we need to repent, to turn from our wrong? Has reconciling with people who we have hurt and who have hurt us been painful? Has it felt costly to trust in God when we do not know why He is asking us to take a certain path? Any heartache, sadness, or hurts you have encountered on this journey are things you can take to the cross because your pain and weakness is not foreign to Jesus thanks to His obedience. Take time to reﬂect on the diﬃcult parts of this journey for you. Write down what has been hard, ways you have encountered suﬀering, times that have seemed dark. Trust that Jesus’ obedience to the Cross, even to death, is relevant to your experience. Knowing that Jesus—even in his own suﬀering—spoke to the criminal on the cross next to him, trust that Jesus will speak to you. Ask Him to meet you in the hardships of this experience and to show you how He is still with you. After that, take time to meditate on Jesus’ own suﬀerings. Use your imagination to sense what this day was like for Him. Grieve with Jesus and thank Him for what he did that day.
Step Twelve Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to everyone, and to practice these principles in all our aďŹ€airs.
ReďŹ‚ections by Liz Moore & Matt Croasmun
Monday, Week 7
Matthew 28:1-10 1
After the sabbath, as the ﬁrst day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was cruciﬁed. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Reﬂection: Jesus isn’t just a spiritual leader and savior for his followers, he is also a friend. When two of his friends (those not in hiding fearing their own execution) go to grieve at Jesus’ gravesite, they instead ﬁnd an angel who tells them that Jesus is alive again! The Jesus who they had known and watched die on a cross is no longer in the grave, he has been raised from the dead and has started heading to Galilee. For those of us familiar with the big claims of Jesus, his resurrection seems like the plot twist we’ve been expecting, but to be hit by the gravity of this revelation in Matthew we have to remember that Jesus’ friends watched him die on a cross, watched his body taken down and helped wrap him for burial in tomb. They would have expected to ﬁnd a large boulder in front of the tomb which would have attended by Roman guards. The expectation was to go to the tomb to mourn, not to be told that their friend who was dead is alive again by an angel who appears like lightening. You can imagine their shock as they walk away form the tomb, trying to process what they had seen and heard, only to be met by Jesus on the road—not as a ghost but as fully man and fully God. Jesus has risen from the dead! There is no other response than to fall down and worship at his feet.
Prompts for Prayer: Be refreshed by the resurrection of Jesus! Try to enter into the emotional space of his friends who go to visit his grave. Like them, as you reread this passage, approach the grave of Jesus in expectation of mourning him only to ďŹ nd an angel instructing you that Jesus is alive! What emotions follow for you as you imagine yourself in the place of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary? Do you experience doubt? Fear? Joy? Pray through these emotions. Resurrection is moving from death to life. Where do you still experience death in your life? Lift those areas of your life up in prayer and ask for the power to hope in and receive new life. Consider what God has revealed to you about himself and your relationship to him over Lent.
Tuesday, Week 7
Matthew 28:16-20 16
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Reﬂection: This passage follows in the same chapter from our reading yesterday. Jesus has risen from the dead and has met up with his disciples in Galilee who are shocked to see the breathing, speaking Jesus. At the same time, the religious authorities who were threatened by Jesus’ life before his death are trying to stiﬂe any word of Jesus’ miraculous resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15). Then we have these words from Jesus to his followers, encouraging them that he has power over all things and that because he has this power they can go and share with others the teachings and experiences of Jesus. Their ability to go out and tell the nations about Jesus is contingent upon his power over all things demonstrated not only through his life but fully through his resurrection and the disciples’ experience of the living Christ. Jesus lastly leaves his followers with the encouragement that he will be with them always, reminding them that the call out is not just one of purpose but of relationship with him—because their lives have been radically changed through relationship with him, they are able to go out and oﬀer the same opportunity to others. Prompts for Prayer: Step Twelve encourages us to share whatever experience we’ve had of transformation with others. What have you experienced in this season that you can share with others in your life? When Jesus commands his followers to go and make other followers, what fears or hopes came to mind? Bring these to God in prayer. Did any particular people or places come to mind as you considered these words of Jesus—either those that seem unreachable or those you hope to know Jesus? Invite Jesus to be with you as you pray for those people now.
Wednesday, Week 7
Psalm 51:13-19 13
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you have no delight in sacriﬁce; if I were to give a burnt oﬀering, you would not be pleased. 17 The sacriﬁce acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 19 then you will delight in right sacriﬁces, in burnt oﬀerings and whole burnt oﬀerings; then bulls will be oﬀered on your altar. Reﬂection: Without remembering the greater context of this psalm the power of these verses can be lost in a presumed moral superiority of the author—or even of us. This is the famous poem of David where he writes of his heart conviction after sleeping with a married woman and then placing her husband on the front lines of battle to die. The author of these words is a man who has just been shown his own sin, asked God to cleanse his heart and restore joy in his life. These are the words of a man who is on the precipice of receiving God’s mercy—an action that compels him further to share with others about the goodness of God out of a heart that overﬂows with gratitude, not with obligation. David oﬀers his own broken heart to God, knowing that it is a brokenness that only God can repair. It is this awareness of his own brokenness that makes him helpful to others who are seeking their own transformation. Prompts for Prayer: In these verses we witness the rawness of repentance of sin and the hope of restoration, and in kind are compelled to reﬂect upon the state of our own hearts. In a sense, through this poem, David is teaching us the ways of God—that our God is one who loves us enough to expose the places of death and addiction in our own lives so that he can bring new life. Over the past weeks of Lent, where has God been shedding a compassionate light on the places where your spirit is broken? Have you felt able to give him access to these places in order for him to rebuild you? Consider doing that now. Ask God to replace parts of your spirit marred with sin or wounds with healing and new life. What have you learned through seeing clearly your own brokenness that God might have you share with others in your life? On the next page write a poem like David’s—reﬂecting the place that you were in and the joy or hope you have in who God is.
Thursday, Week 7
Romans 8:31-39 31
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justiﬁes. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Reﬂection: Having described the way that we have been set free from Sin by God, Paul expresses his conﬁdence in God’s faithfulness to us. Nothing can keep us from God. As Jesus experienced, not even death can separate us from the love of God. If we were tempted at the beginning of this journey to rely on our own faithfulness, having gone through the process we’ve gone through, it is now 100% clear: it is God’s faithfulness that provides a ﬁrm foundation. Prompts for Prayer: Especially this Easter Week, having celebrated Jesus being raised from the dead, we can be conﬁdent that nothing can separate us from God. God is pursuing us in love. Our brokenness did not deter Him. Our enmity did not deter Him. Not even death can hold Him back. What are you struggling with today that you are tempted to believe could separate you from God? Paul tells us that Jesus whom God raised from the dead “intercedes”—prays—for us. Let’s give thanks to Jesus for His faithfulness to us and put before him the struggles of our day.
Friday, Week 7
John 21:1-19 1
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going ﬁshing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no ﬁsh, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will ﬁnd some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many ﬁsh. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of ﬁsh, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards oﬀ. 9
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal ﬁre there, with ﬁsh on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the ﬁsh that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large ﬁsh, a hundred ﬁfty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the ﬁsh. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15
When they had ﬁnished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I
love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Reﬂection: Many of the disciples were ﬁshermen before they met Jesus, and it seems logical for them to return to their former trade once Jesus has been executed. But at this time in John’s account, we read that this isn’t the disciple’s ﬁrst encounter with the risen Jesus, it’s their third. And yet the disciples return to their lives before they met Jesus, and they ﬁsh—unsuccessfully. The text implies that now that they have had an encounter with the resurrected Christ, they cannot return to being just ﬁshermen, but rather, as we see with Jesus’ interaction with Simon Peter, that now the disciples are truly to be ﬁshers of men. What’s even more powerful about Jesus’ interaction with Simon Peter is that not long ago, three times Simon Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Here, we see Jesus not condemning Simon Peter for his faithlessness and fear but reestablishing relationship and reinstating Simon Peter as one that Jesus wants to take care of his people. But the care that Jesus is commanding to Simon Peter is not a passive one but one that requires following further after Jesus into places where Simon Peter may not want to go. Prompts for Prayer: It is only out of our personal experience of the love of Jesus that we can move forward into oﬀering life-changing love to others. The disciples as a group needed to re-experience a way that they had come to see who Jesus is through the a miracle of abundant ﬁsh. As Lent draws to a close, what is a way that you’ve experienced the love of Jesus in your past that you need to re-experience this week? What is an experience that you’ve had during Lent that is a new experience of the love of Jesus that you may need to re-experience in the future? Write the fullness of this experience down so that in times of being stuck between a death and resurrection you might be able to recall the goodness of God. Out of this experience of the love that you now have for Jesus, where is he inviting you to follow after him and feed his sheep—share what you’ve been given?
Serenity Prayer God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.