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Posts Tagged ‘leap of faith’

For those who read my meditations regularly, you know I am intrigued by the sweep of paradox in scripture. Strength in weakness is one of the most difficult concepts to put my head around since the display of strength is my security blanket.

II Corinthians 11:30-31
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

Back in the day, I worked with a small group of friends to build an avant garde dance theatre company in New York City. These types of projects are always a bit “hand to mouth” and poorly funded. It can be very stressful. I was in charge of the finances (using mostly my personal funds) and the administration of the company in addition to working full time and going to school. After a year of this, I was at the breaking point. At one of our meetings, I confessed, I was falling apart inside and I couldn’t continue to be the rock anymore. They would not allow it. “You have to be strong. We depend on you to be strong.”

And then I knew we had, all of us, put our confidence in the wrong thing: my strength and confidence That kind of strength is an illusion.

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. [Psalm 18:32]
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. [Psalm 46:1]

But God cannot arm me with strength or “be” my strength as long as I continue in the “world’s strongest woman competition.” I have to believe in the promise. I have to be willing to reveal my weakness and only then will God’s strength be visible. My strength is a mere veil to the real thing.

Some of the tools:

  • Be willing to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Choose silence.
  • Acknowledge the successes of others.
  • Accept mistakes.
  • Forgo the praise of others.
  • Relinquish control.
  • Embrace the feelings.
  • Open the heart.
  • Submit to outside circumstances.
  • Build trust.
  • Pray.
  • Respond to the Holy Spirit.

It is one thing to talk about paradox but it’s another to actually live it. This takes a great leap of faith. It’s time to jump.

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Act 4:32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

This line makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They go to a lot of trouble to explain it away (that was then, this is now). Others go off and start communes and do their best to live in community. In some cases, these communities are successful, but most are not. There has been a resurgence of interest in communal living through the growth of the emergent movement and the next generation of believers.

In any event, it is clear that in New Testament time, that time after Jesus’ resurrection, living and sharing and being of one heart and mind was the norm. This is what people wanted to do. I don’t believe it was mandated, it just happened. It evolved from that moment in their lives. The message of the time was simple: Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the cross and was raised up. They expected him to return soon as well.

But, in the same way that Jesus was not the Messiah everyone expected, he didn’t return within anyone’s timeline either. At this point in the story, there were upwards to 5,000 believers. What did that look like? How did they really operate in one heart and mind? How did they really live “in community?”

Being in one heart and mind is not easy. There must be trust, sacrifice, compromise, flexibility, cooperation, and love. There must be a rallying point… something everyone can agree upon.

I think it’s our first priority in any relationship: find the parallel. Look for the sphere of agreement, the commonality before addressing any of the differences. With every relationship, there will always be at least one congruence. Let’s start there.

Shakespeare’s Shylock said it most ably:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?

Perhaps the person is saying: I am a Muslim. I am an African. I am poor. I am gay. I am physically challenged. I am old. I am alone.

Today, I seek oneness in heart and mind.

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John 9:28a; 34a
Then they [the chief priests] hurled insults at him [the formerly blind man] and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!” … Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!…”

I confess, I love to be around people who are really smart. I am intrigued by their knowledge and enjoy learning something new each and every day. It’s one of the reasons I read so much.

But the way in which someone hurls his/her knowledge around can be intimidating. In fact, there are folks who use knowledge as a sledge hammer. Little do they know that knowledge flung about like that becomes diffused, unfocused and useless. People stop listening.

In one of the books I’m reading, “Why We Make Mistakes” by Joseph Hallinan, the author maintains that as people (particularly men) collect information, the more confident they become to the point of actually becoming over confident. And in that over confidence, they begin to make mistakes.

The chief priests were over confident. They thought they knew the whole story. They could not integrate anything new. They could not integrate the miracle. They began making unfounded accusations. They were grasping at straws.

There is usually a moment when I go from appreciation of a person’s knowledge and intelligence to total intimidation. I think that moment happens when I hear or see or sense the other person is espousing his/her views with such certainty that there is no room for other possibilities. It’s a lack of humility.

Lord, don’t let me become this kind of person. Keep my heart and mind open to the miraculous. Keep my mind and heart open to the evolution of your spirit in our world. Keep me humble.

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John 17:13-14; 17
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they [followers] may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world….For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”[Jesus praying]

Three promises are embedded in these passages: joy, suffering, and holiness. These are part of becoming a follower of Christ.

I believe Jesus had joy because he completed his task on Earth. He accomplished what his Father had sent him to do. He was faithful. And out of his accomplishment and faithfulness comes joy. His joy is available to us because HE did the brunt of the work. As Julian of Norwich says, “All will be well…” Despite our circumstances, joy is available. “It is finished!” But we continue to struggle… we continue to make our own joy.

I believe Jesus understood his own suffering and anticipated his followers to experience suffering as well. Jesus was outside the norm of the day. He challenged the religious leaders of the time. He promoted actions and thoughts of paradox: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, etc. But these teachings are no better understood or walked out today. Most Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of suffering for an ideal like the lion and the lamb dwelling together. Jesus world and our world are not that different, both worlds are equally violent. Perhaps the biggest difference is that we, in the West, have more to lose. Which bring us to the challenge of holiness.

I believe Jesus offered his followers a holy life by walking outside the the ways of the world. In order to know this life, we would have to willingly step away from our consumer lifestyle. Sanctification (holiness) comes from casting ourselves fully at the feet of Christ. It’s submission to the way of Jesus. It’s humility for the sake of the other. It’s letting go. It’s living sacrificially.

Oh, most patient Lord, forgive me for looking for my own joy, for running from suffering, and fearing holiness. Show me the narrow way.

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John 15:5b, 8
“If a man [or woman] remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

The whole issue of the fruit metaphor has plagued me over the years. I got hung up on it when a well meaning friend pronounced fruit as the number of converts I brought into the Body of Christ. For him, the process of “harvesting fruit” (probably based on Matthew 9:37) was a frontal assault: bring the person through the “sinner’s prayer” or share the “4 Spiritual Laws” or whatever it takes to close the deal and get the person to “yes.” It reminds me of sales talk: get to the “ask.” [“Ask” in this context meaning to pop the question: do you want to buy this product or do you want to support this cause with a donation?]

First of all, let me say, I am not against drawing others to Christ, far from it. But I’m thinking differently these days about the way. I’m thinking it’s the fruit that actually draws a new believer, not the other way around. The fruit, like fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) or the description by James [3:17] of being wise, peace-loving, considerate, merciful and so forth, these are transforming energies. These fruits come from the heart. These are fruits of love. These are fruits that draw others to us. And when they are drawn to us, they are drawn to Christ.

Ezekiel says [47:12] “…every month they will bear [fruit], because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” This is our future. As the water/spirit of God flows through us, we offer the fruit of love and healing for wounds, both emotional and physical. We are in the restoration business. As we give of ourselves, we are giving life-changing fruit.

Doesn’t it make so much sense that God uses the idea of “feast” … the abundance of fruit … available to us all. And how foolish of us to miss such a feast.

Lord, mark the time for me today. Give me awareness that I might recognize the hunger of others. I don’t want to just “invite” them to the feast, I want to give them a taste of Christ’s fruit. Keep my heart tender, receptive and transparent.

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John 10:9
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Using the gate has parameters. Since there is only one gate into a pen, you may have to walk around. If the gate is locked and you don’t have the key, you may have to wait for the gate to be opened by someone else. The gate usually swings only one way. The gate may be opened only at certain times. The gate may not be opened wide if there are those who need to be kept out or in while you travel back and forth.

Let’s face it, most of us will try something else if the gate is locked or closed. I think I’ve jumped the fence quite a few times. Remember, I’m the fixer/problem-solver. If I want to get inside, I’ll do what I need to get in. Patience is not one of my Top Ten virtues. I am truly a product of my culture.

Here’s the thing: if we can accept the restrictions of the gate (usually for our own good), then the result is safe passage in and out to the pasture (world).

Jesus says is he is, at minimum, the gate. He is our ticket to safety. It’s a promise.

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John 8:51
“I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

The words of Jesus are a big deal. So often, we gloss over these almost unbelievable statements that Jesus made while teaching.

In Jesus’s time and for many centuries before and afterward, the spoken word was the primary way of communicating. People would seek out those who were knowledgeable or anointed in order to hear them speak. They would come away from these experiences changed.

Sometimes, even today, this can happen. We will hear of a person who speaks with great charisma and authority that we want to see and hear him/her in person. But, we’re busy people. We seldom “drop everything” just to go and hear someone speak. So, in an effort to recreate these opportunities, we seek out videos of live events, recordings and podcasts, or YouTube. But it’s not quite the same. Not really.

Oh, yes, we now live in the Information Age. If it’s not recorded, then it’s written down. Thousands and thousands of words are being transmitted every day. The written word is everywhere: Internet sites (and blogs like this one), books, magazines, phone texting, and email, just to name a few. We are communicating more and more virtually. But the written word, though powerful in many ways, can never replace the power of the spoken word in person.

This is especially true in relationships. To connect with one another we need to hear and see one another. True communication is a full body experience. Without all the cues, there are lots interpretations that can ensue. We must be willing to gather together.

We cannot go back and experience Jesus in person. We only have a written record. This record, the scriptures, has been cut up, translated, redefined, interpreted, and analyzed by thousands of people, from scholars to backwoods preachers. We are a long way from a firsthand experience.

In the end, it’s just between Christ and me. What do I understand when I read His Words? What do I hear when I speak His Words out loud? What words of Jesus resonate within me? What decisions will I make? What words will I keep? What words will I believe?

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