“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth . . . The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever”—Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT).
Psalm 121 has long been one of my favorite Psalms. As one of the Pilgrim Songs it was sung by Israelites as they journeyed upward to Jerusalem for annual festivals to worship at the Tabernacle, and later at the Temple on the Temple Mount. Likewise, they would sing these songs on their journey back home.
These Psalms remind us that we all are going somewhere—no one is heading nowhere. Everyone is headed toward God or away from God. Life is not simply stationary. Eugene Peterson explains,
The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, read the same newspapers, are citizens under the same governments, pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground. The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breath, we know we are preserved by God, we know that we are accompanied by God, we know that we are ruled by God. (Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000 2nd Edition, 44-45.)
God is our greatest traveling companion on life’s journey. In fact, God came to travel with us in Jesus Christ (see John 1:14). While God is our greatest traveling companion, God has built us for relationships with one another so we may journey together. Jesus illustrates this in choosing to travel through life with others.
As mentioned before, the Pilgrim Songs were sung by God’s people as they traveled to and from Jerusalem for worship and celebration. They watched over and protected one another as they journeyed journey to the temple. They guarded one another from attacks on the road, wild animals, and other such dangers. We need people in our lives to journey with us in order that we may “watch over one another in love” between our Sundays and other times of worship. “Watching over one another in love,” was a key phrase of the early Methodists and the practice of it was instrumental in the Methodist Revival.
I am well aware that if I’m to fully grow in Christlikeness, I need others in my life with whom I can be honest. Every Friday morning at 6:30, I meet with two other gentlemen to share “how it is with our souls.” The hour we spend together is by far the most transforming hour of my week. Just like the pilgrims singing the Pilgrim Songs watched over one another as they traveled to and from Jerusalem for worship, we watch over one another from week to week in between the times of worship. Each time we get together we ask the same five questions (a variation on the questions asked on discipleshipbands.com):
- What is the state of your life and faith?
- What is the possibility of transformation?
- What stands in the way?
- What ways and means will move me forward this week that the Band can ask for an update on next week?
- Is there anything that I don’t want the Band to know about me this week?
I will confess, it took months before we were comfortable enough to answer all of these questions. It takes a lot of trust to be that honest and transparent but that’s the beauty of having true and authentic traveling companions. We listen to one another, speak life over one another, and pray for one another. We desire to stay in keep in step with the Spirit, as Paul encouraged the Galatians to do (see Gal. 5:16-26) as we travel toward Christlikeness. And like the early Methodists we watch over one another in love.
A discipleship band is a group of 3-5 people who read together, pray together and meet together to become the love of God for one another and the world.
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