Not About Me | 9.12.16

 

Following Jesus as his apprentice means that you have entered into a lifelong process of conforming to the image of Christ for the sake of others, I am thinking today about that last phrase – for the sake of others.  For some reason, recently this has jumped out at me, like I’ve never noticed it before.

In Christian circles, we hear a lot about a personal relationship with God. True, we do have that, but somewhere along the way, I wonder if we have come to believe that our spiritual life is a private thing just between God and us, and is somehow separate from our real life? Sometimes I think we view relationships with others as secondary and only tangential to our primary relationship with God. It’s almost like we believe that all we have to do is learn Bible stuff, clean ourselves up a bit, and do the right kinds of religious activities.

What if it turns out that my relationship with God isn’t just all about me? The truth is that the process of being conformed to the image of Christ actually takes place right in the middle of the daily messy stuff of our relationships with others, not apart from them. Those frustrating people and circumstances are actually the intersection at which the Holy Spirit transforms us, where we become more like Jesus, more conformed to His image.

Our Lord’s teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a person – His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure.

~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Think for a minute about what Jesus did. He is the One who gave himself totally, completely, unconditionally for others. He hung out with the non-religious types and rather than looking down his nose judgmentally at them, actually seemed to enjoy their company. It makes sense that being conformed to His image will happen as we love, value and serve people the way Jesus did. Not just when we feel great, not just when it’s convenient, not just with people we like, who think like us or make us look or feel good.

Oswald goes on to say: If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that he may squeeze the sweetness out of us.

A helpful question might be to ask yourself if you are willing to be conformed to the image of Jesus, primarily for the sake of others? Just imagine what the world would be like if all those who say they follow Jesus were to actually surrender themselves to this purpose.

Community | 5.2.16

This past weekend, my husband, Ken, and I attended a surprise birthday party for our next-door neighbor. Their house was filled to overflowing with family and friends – and yet, it was interestingly quiet. Our neighbors are deaf, and most of
their friends are too. But even though there wasn’t much sound, there was a LOT of communication going on.

We were surrounded by friendly people who were having a great time together, laughing – mostly silently – gesturing, and paying close attention to what the others were saying with their hands and faces. We did our best to understand them and to make ourselves understood, although neither of us knows much sign language. And they were all making the same effort toward us.

Luckily for us, their daughter is hearing, and of course, also knows sign language. She very graciously helped us to connect by interpreting what our new friends were saying, and then translating our words into signing for them. In this situation, we all needed an interpreter, someone who understood both languages and could help us communicate.

That birthday party got me thinking about how we experience communicating with God. Sometimes the language barrier between God and us seems impossible to cross. Even though we may believe that He is present and is communicating to us personally through creation, the Bible, and other people, we still need help in learning the language of the Spirit.

We were created for community, not isolation – and common language is a primary bridge to this connection. We become fluent in God’s language, and thus connected to His community, the same way we learn human languages – by watching, imitating, studying, and practicing – learning from others who are walking with God and can help us interpret what we are reading, hearing, and experiencing.

Great quote by Ruth Haley Barton, from Sacred Rhythms:

It is impossible to overstate the importance of community in the spiritual transformation process. This is not the same thing as the Christian busyness that often accompanies church life; it is about quietly sharing the journey with others who are also drawn to deeper levels of spiritual transformation that enable them to discern and do God’s will.

Who, Me? | 1.25.16

I’m a fairly concrete thinker, and I have struggled with the concept of having a relationship with someone I can’t touch or see. Interestingly enough, though, I have never seriously doubted the reality of God’s existence; blessed, really, with what Dallas Willard calls a “blind faith” that really does believe God is with me—I may be using abstract reasoning that says He simply must be here. And along the way, I did have experiences of a definite sense of God’s presence, through my own personal times of study, meditation, and prayer, through music, or in a worship service where there was a powerful impression that God was present, and seeing things happen that clearly had to be the work of God. You may have had those kinds of experiences and know what I am talking about. They are very real and meaningful ways that we do experience relationship with God.

But, Willard asks a direct question: Why, if God were personal, would He not also talk with us?

Thirsty | 1.17.16

Have you ever played the Bible Roulette game? You know, when you want to know what you should do about something, so you open up a Bible randomly and use the first verse your finger lands on as God’s answer to your prayer for guidance. Yeah, I’ve done that. Of couse, God could communicate with us like this, but when we try to use God superstitiously as a way to foretell the future, or to guarantee our own success and well being, we’ve missed the point. We misunderstand His nature and what He intends for us as His children and friends.

Here’s some questions to think about: Why DO you pray? What is your motive, and what are you expecting?