Posts Tagged ‘way of Christ’

I am surprised again how so many weighty discourses in the Epistles come back around to the one foundational element that is the under girding of a believer’s life: love. My faith is nothing if it isn’t reflected through the words and actions of love. And not just the actions or words themselves, but the intent.

Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I think too many Christians (including me) get caught up in all things “should.” I should be praying more, I should be working with the poor in the inner city, I should be attending church every Sunday, I should be volunteering at the church, I should teach at Vacation Bible School, I should go on a mission trip, I should be tithing and so on and on and on.

The flip side: I should not be watching R rated movies, I should not be cursing, I should not be reading fantasy or horror or literature with bad words in it, I should not be listening to New Age music or Rock and Roll or God forbid–HipHop or Rap, I should not wear a bikini, I should not go out with non-believers, I should not be in debt, I should not buy a 2500 square foot house with 3.5 bathrooms while people are starving in “pick a place,” I should not watch television, and of course, the “should not” list can much longer than the “shoulds.”

Here’s my point. I could do any or all of these things the right way and still miss Jesus. I could follow all the shoulds and the should nots and still be without the peace of Christ. If love is not there binding my heart and soul to the action or inaction, I am kidding myself and the people I serve.

Many of the “shoulds” are important and are examples of how the love of Christ might manifest. And, in the same breath, the “should nots” may be red flags in our lives that our path is being diverted away from a better way. But in an of themselves, they are not the litmus test of my faith.

I want an inner life so rich in Christ that the “should nots” are a non-issue and the “shoulds” are a natural outgrowth of that love, devotion, and relationship with the Spirit within.

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I do it all the time. I start a diet, lose weight, and then go back to my old eating habits. I order my space and vow to keep it that way, and before I know it, it’s trashed. I judge someone, ask for forgiveness, and judge again. Am I so weak? I am.

Galatians 4:9
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

What is the draw of the old way? I guess if I were an alcoholic or drug addict, I would be drinking and shooting up again. It’s destructive behavior and yet it’s familiar. It’s crazy-making [Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.] It’s the path of least resistance.

I am the Israelites in the desert who complained about the new way and wanted to go back to Egypt and slavery: they thought that would be better than their current struggle in the present time [Exodus 16:1-3].

Is it forgetfulness or is it mindlessness? Or both? When God brings change into my life, I am so happy and full of energy. I am clear headed and I see the big picture. I am focused. I am motivated. But once I reach a certain plateau in the process, it’s like hitting a wall. There is no movement forward. I lose track of those initial feelings and strength. Oh, I might try to climb the wall for a bit, I might even try to walk around it. But my drive to persevere is sucked away and I am left with my old self for company.

I say mindlessness because it feels like the opposite of mindfulness. It takes mindfulness to stay aware of the Christ Spirit within and without. It takes effort. It is a special type of wakefulness.

When I was in acting school I learned how to walk a tightrope in our circus class. The clue to tightrope walking is maintaining a focus on the end of the rope, the junction point. As soon as I would take my eyes off that point, I would lose my balance. As I tried to do more complicated maneuvers, it became harder and harder to maintain that focus. My little life is not much different.

Put me back on the tightrope today, with Christ ahead, my focal point.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me. (St. Patrick)

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Of the people in my world, few are under the rigors or traditions of Jewish law. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to be directed by the laws of modernity, culture, and the man-made rules and traditions of the institutionalized church.

Galatians 4:1a, 2-3, 4a, 5
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, . . . He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, . . . to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

When John the Baptist and Jesus shook up the Jewish people by announcing the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of the ultimate promises that went back as far as Abraham, people freaked. They understood the implications of a Messiah in their world. They understood the law would be superseded by whatever He brought along. They understood there was an inheritance involved.

We don’t.

By “putting on Christ,” I am no longer just female or American or middle class. I am the seed of Abraham because Christ is the seed. [Gal 3:26-29]

It reminds me of the sad stories of wealthy men and women passing their money, their companies, their knowledge, and all their worldly goods to their descendants but it’s all destroyed or lost. The inheritance was full of promise but it was unrealized.

I feel like a modern day prodigal, wasting away the gifts of the Christ. I am a slave instead to my lifestyle, my debt, and my self-image. I am perpetuating 20th century goals and dreams to my children.

What does it really look like to wear Christ in the world?

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Art by Walter Thomas Sacks

The path to Christ begins with the One God. The whole point of Christ’s presence in the world is based on the covenants, mandates, and promises of Yahweh. If there is no God, then Christ is a non-issue.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I know there are a lot of people who struggle with the idea of the Christ as the “only” way to God. And who am I to say that this is definitively true. However, it is clear to me that it is a way that God provided, a way that was established in the laws of the Jews (a people group who worshiped that One God through time immemorial).

If God is in the “house” then Christ is the door. If someone else wants to try to get in through the chimney or the plumbing, who am I to stop them?

Besides, it’s not just getting in, it’s relationship. The way of Christ opens the door as well as providing an automatic translator. The Christ spirit cleans up the signal.

But, like the teenagers in our home, no matter how many times I say that I can show them how to do something easier, they want to try it their way first. That’s fine. Sometimes, we need to go through the process, the cycle of learning. I did the same thing.

But now I know. I chose this way of Christ. I accepted the offer. I want to see it through. Amen.

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There are times in a person’s life that he/she feels compelled, for the sake of faith, to act. I don’t think we can know when that moment will come, but we cannot help but recognize it in hindsight.

II Corinthians 5:14
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

The first compelling moment of this kind comes at the Christ recognition moment: to accept or not to accept the truth of Him. At least for me, it wasn’t a casual decision. I simply had to choose, as though Jesus was sitting beside me saying, “But what about you?” . . . “Who do you say I am?” [Mark 8:29a] The question had been lingering at the back of my mind as I read through the New Testament. There was so much in that read-through I found unbelievable, frustrating, and even misogynist, but the identity of Jesus, that was becoming more and more plausible, not less. I could not deny Him.

After that day, there were more times I had to “fess up” to believing in that Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:10] Some of my friends were shocked, some were belligerent, some were curious, but few were compelled to do what I did, to make that leap of faith. I didn’t understand.

My immediate family saw my new found Christ-consciousness as a passing fad. Unlike legwarmers over jeans, rat tail hair, and the “Where’s the Beef?’ commercial, my faith did not go away. I am still compelled to follow after thirty years.

It’s taken me a long time to realize I cannot compel another person to believe in the Messiah. There are no rules, no “four spiritual laws,” no “evangelism explosion,” no memorized verses, no descriptions of hell and damnation that will “do the trick.” I can only share my story.

Along the way, my faith has taken me down a number of unexpected paths: I married a man after a three-day whirlwind; I created two scripture-based performance pieces I toured over many years, I adopted three children with my husband of twenty-five years, I traveled to Africa in mission, I have taught and spoken to both small groups and crowds on the ways of God, I have led in a variety of para-church organizations, I continue to read extensively, I have been a mentor, a bible teacher, and a Sunday School teacher, I have been a worship leader, a counselor, and a prayer partner, I have fasted, been on silent retreats, and clowned for Christ in white face. I have danced, cried, laughed, and fallen over in the spirit. I have spoken in tongues, sung in the spirit, and prayed for healings.

I am compelled to seek the deeper way. I am compelled to know the Christ within. And my life continues to evolve. My journey is far from over. There will be more. I give thanks.

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In many ways, this phrase just rubs me the wrong way. I want to put my hands on my hips and say, “MY place?” Who are you to say what my place is? But then, I take a breath, and think: isn’t it true . . . isn’t htere a moment in time in which we are touched by God? That’s the place we start.

I Corinthians 7:17a
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.

Whether I like it or not, I started out in a place in life: daughter of immigrants, relatively poor, gifted with some wit and bits of talent. When I recognized the Christ spirit within me, I was on quite a downhill spiral. I was actually losing place. I was falling into a different place, casting away my God-given talents.

So, my place in life is not just my class and race, it’s the entire package of who I am in a moment. It’s not that my place may not change, but it’s not for me to destroy what has been given.

Paul writes that it’s the commands of God that must be followed, that being more essential than place. (For me, these are the two great commands of loving God and others.) When doing this, THEN, place may change.

Today, I am in a new “physical” space, in a workshop for writers. Today, I sense my place in time and Christ is about to take a turn.

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I keep forgetting who I really am. I mean, there is a core, where Spirit resides within, where the Redeemer mystery took place, and that nucleus is holy. And worse, in the same way I lose myself, I also lose the “sacred other”: same core, same potential for good.

I Corinthians 5:7
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

If I could just hang on, daily, to the truth of the core, then the yeast of life’s challenges and bad choices wouldn’t find such a comfy environment to multiply. Instead of over-reacting to someone’s slight, I could draw on my shared center where the work was already done by the sacrificial lamb. I could forgive on the moment, instead of waiting for conscience to kick in later. Instead of replaying conversations, I could stay in conversation with the Spirit, a much more productive exchange. Instead of gossiping and tale-telling (oh, so cleverly), I could be building a new story with the God of Hope.

I am redeemed. I don’t have to be the ugly American, the chip on her shoulder worker, the judgmental observer, the pessimist.

Today’s yeast is no different than the biblical yeast: malice and wickedness. Do I really want that for my life? Do I want to allow my being to be consumed by this yeast unnecessarily? Or do I want to be that unleavened bread marked by sincerity and truth? [I Cor 5:8] The answer is a “no-brainer.”

Here’s what I have to do today: practice. That’s right. Practice sincerity and truth. Practice kindness and patience and self-control. Practice love. Believe in peace and joy and goodness. [Galatians 5:22]

These fruits are present already. They are the default harvest from the Holy Spirit within. The more I engage these fruits, the easier it will be to eat them and share them. Selah.

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