Be Gone

I was reading the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew the other day.  (Matthew 4:1-11)
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ And
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
There were some questions raised as I spent time in this account.  This blog raises more

questions than I have answers.  But I am hoping you can provide your insight on these questions.

In the second two temptations, Matthew records the fact that the devil “took him” places.  Why did Jesus allow the devil to take Him places?  If you or I reported that “The devil took me to this bar…” or even “The devil took me to this beautiful park…,” our friends would be very concerned. We know from the preamble that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit … to be tempted by the devil.”  I thought about Jesus’ prayer where He taught the disciples: “Lead us not into temptation.”  I was wondering if Jesus was remembering that time in the wilderness where He was led into temptation by the Spirit when He taught us to pray that way. Was He remembering how bad it was for the devil to take Him places?  Was He saying: “You don’t want to go through what I went through. Ask your heavenly Father to not lead you into temptation.” We sometimes don’t realize how trying this was for Jesus. 
The text concludes with the statement that angels ministered to Him after this encounter. That seems to strongly indicate how difficult this time was for Jesus.
The other thing that struck me for the first time was that Jesus waited until the third temptation before He said: “Be gone.”  Why wait?  Perhaps he was allowing this Spirit led temptation to run its course. Perhaps it took that long before it dawned on Him that He simply needed to say: “Be gone.”
For me, distractions are some of my greatest temptations.  I am amazed when I am in the

middle of writing out a dialogue with God and I realize I need to write an email to someone. Amazingly, I very often go and do it.  I leave my dialogue with God dangling in mid-air.  Or how very often in the middle of centering prayer, my mind wanders off to some petty concern of the day.  Maybe I need to learn to just say: “Be gone.”  Thomas Keating’s image of letting the concerns and distractions float down the river comes to my mind.  But I am thinking I need to be more forceful.   Be gone.

Father, today I ask that I not be led into temptation.  And Lord, when tempting distractions do come, let me say – Be gone!

Contemplative Mentors

For almost forty years the Center for Renewal has been a place where people from all walks of life have come to be renewed and refreshed by the presence of Jesus.  I was talking with a pastor just last week who told me how, when his inner city ministry was just starting 40 years ago, he would drive out here to be quiet and sit at Jesus’ feet.
Over the years, we have encouraged pastors and lay people to follow Jesus’ model of getting away from the ministry and spending time alone with their Heavenly Father.   Every gospel gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ prayer life.
Matthew 14  13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself;
Matthew 14 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
Mark 6 45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.  46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.  47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.
Luke 918 And it happened that while He was praying alone,
John 615 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
In Luke 22:39, we even see that this pattern of getting away to pray was habitual:
39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives;
Recently I saw something about Jesus that I had missed.  Many times that Jesus went alone to pray, he took His disciples with Him. 
Mark 3  Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples
Luke 9  10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.
Luke 9  18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him
Luke 9 28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke 22  39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.
I realized that, over the years, I have made it my custom and my habit to get away to a secluded place; to be alone with Jesus; to sit at His feet; to listen.  But I have not taken others with me.  May the Lord grant us clarity as to whom He is calling us to mentor in this way.
This past summer I have begun doing this with one man.  What about you?  What would it look like for you to bring someone with you on a day of quiet and solitude.   

Treasuring: A New Spiritual Discipline


In the fall of 2014, I was going through a book entitled Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to a Well Ordered Way by Steve Macchia.  As one of the steps to create a rule of life, Steve invited us to review the primary relationships in our life: assessing the priority we give them, the health of the relationship, any problems, etc.  I realized that there was a significant lack of whole hearted devotion to these dear friends, family members and even acquaintances. I didn’t spend much time thinking about them.  I realized that I didn’t treasure each person I met. I knew that something needed to change in the way I related to those around me.
In December of 2014 I preached a sermon  entitled “But Mary…” (For the Text; For the Audio) based on the text from Luke’s gospel
But Mary treasured and pondered all these things in her heart. Luke 2:19
I was struck by the phrase “treasured … all these things.”  This included: all of the people, events, and circumstances that God brings into our lives.   “How can we learn to treasure and ponder all these things in our hearts?” This question continued to burn in my heart until one day in January a friend told me that he was going to begin to practice a prayer of examen each night before going to bed: asking God to help him reflect on the events of the day, to see places he had failed and where he had followed God’s leading.  I knew that I wanted to learn to more fully treasure the people in my life and the activities of my day. So we agreed to enter into our separate and distinct disciplines while keeping each other accountable for the process.  I developed a new Spiritual Discipline that I call Treasuring. It has been so helpful that I hope to use this discipline for the rest of my life.


Simple steps

I obtained a treasuring journal.  You could just use your prayer journal

but I chose to make this journal separate.  I begin each time of Treasuring by writing down the names of each individual with whom I had any reasonably significant personal interaction the previous day.  Generally, I don’t write down the “Hi. How are you?” kinds of interactions.  I write down those interactions where I had some meaningful exchange.  This is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I will write down the name of someone I didn’t talk to or barely said two words if there is something that piques my interest.  The interaction can be face to face or can be over the phone.

Next, I write down the events and activities of the past 24 hours that I have been engaged in.  Generally these are very broad categories and not minutely specific.
Once I have the names and activities, I first spend a little bit of time on each name.  The ABC’s of treasuring are Attending, Blessing and Confession (although my normal order is ACB):

Attending: Attend to what your body and your mind are saying to you when you come to their name.

Place your hand on your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the moment of the day when you interacted with each person.

  • Are there any positive or negative feelings? 
  • How is my body reacting to this name? 
  • Are there any tugs to do anything?
  • Are there any hooks in me?  Things that stick

Attend to what the Holy Spirit is saying.

  • How did I treasure this person today? In what way did I not treasure them?
  • Did I wrong this person in any way?
  • Was anything I said untrue or did I use a half truth?
  • Do I have any wrong attitudes toward them or any wrong affections toward them?
  • How can I treasure them more?
  • Where did I give or receive love from this person? How did I withhold love from this person? 

Write down what you are experiencing and hearing.
Blessing: Pray all or part of the blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. (Lord bless them and keep them.  Lord make Your face to shine upon them and be gracious to them. Lord lift up your countenance upon them and give them peace.)  If appropriate, place your fingers on the name of the person as you pray this prayer of blessing.  Most of the time I do this over the entire list.  Sometimes, as I feel led, I will concentrate this blessing on just one or two names.  Then I will pray the blessing over the rest as a group.
Confessing: Confess your failure to treasure the person and ask God to change you / to soften your heart / to be able to treasure this person.

Treasuring Activities

My discipline here is quite simple.  I list the activities of the previous day.  I reflect upon where my heart was at during the activity.  Was I treasuring this activity as something I am doing with God.  Was I even aware of His presence during the activity?  Generally the answer to this question is no.  I ask Jesus to help me treasure each of these activities as a time in my day when I get to keep in step with His Spirit.  (Galatians 5:25) To walk with Him.  Then I ask Jesus to change my awareness of Him in all my activities for today.

Time Commitment

This is a major new spiritual discipline for me.  It takes a significant time.

I spend from 10-15 minutes each day with this.  My goal is to begin to treasure each person and each activity in the moment.   I believe that God and I are doing this together.  I sense His presence as we do this. I also can see some positive changes taking place in my thoughts and actions towards other people and towards the activities I am engaged in.  You do need to be aware when you are just rushing through the steps.  Occasionally treasuring becomes a checkbox in my day.  Been there.  Done that.  Usually no treasuring happens then.

Why not try it for a week and see what God does in your heart?