Kris Vallotton, in his book Developing a Supernatural Lifestyle, has shared this list of values he tries to live by. He composed this list wile spending time alone with God on a South Sea Island:
I will serve God first and honor Him always, both in life and in death.
I will be honest, loyal, trustworthy, and a man of my word, no matter what the price.
I will keep my values, no matter how much they cost me and if I fail, I will be quick to repent.
I will treat all people with respect and honor, whether they are friend or foe, as they were created in God’s image.
I will strive to love everyone despite their opinions, attitudes, or persuasions, no matter how they treat me.
I will never act out of fear, fear any man or demon, or make decisions strictly to save my life. I will fear God only.
I will be loyal to my wife both in thought and deed into eternity.
I will live to bless and empower the generations to come and leave a legacy, both in the Spirit and in the natural, to a people yet to be born.
I will never work for money or sell myself at any price. I will only be motivated to do what I believe to be right and receive my substance from God. I vow to be generous under all circumstance.
I will live my life to bring out the best in people and bring them into an encounter with the real and living God.
I will live my life in the supernatural realm, expecting and anticipating God to do the impossible to me, through me, and around me as I follow him.
It is my lifetime ambition to become friends with God in the deepest sense of the word.
I dedicate my strength, my wealth, all that I am, and all that I will ever be to see the course of world history altered until the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our God.
I have made these principles a part of my spiritual practice, reading them aloud, praying about them, and reflecting on them at least once a week. In addition to deepening my walk with the Spirit, it helps me to gain more profound insight into areas of my walk where I am strong and areas where I am lax and lacking.
I noted here on LifeBrook back in 2009 that I was undertaking the Lenten tradition of giving up something for the season leading up to Easter, albeit with a bit of an intangible bent. That year I vowed to give up something that fed a longstanding stronghold in my life: negative thinking. As I look back on my journals from that period of time, I saw that this was quite a struggle. There were more than a few days that this chronic negativity had a life and a momentum of its own. Yet, at the same time, I did see that there were also more than a few days that I became less prone to negative cognition and even when I did have a pessimistic thought, I immediately became aware of it and was able to, as that wise sage Barney Fife told his friend Sheriff Andy:”Nip it in the bud.”
I mention all this because this year I have once again taken on this anti-negativity challenge as part of my Lenten practice. It is not so much that I have slid back into chronic negative thinking – no – in fact, the Holy Spirit has helped me immensely in this area. It’s just that I realize that this issue is one that has been a powerful force in my life and I want to take yet another step in getting on top of it. I will let you know from time to time how things are going.
I would be most interested in hearing what sort of things you folks are considering dealing with this Lenten season.
As Christians, each follower of Christ is not called to a lukewarm, mediocre walk with God. Instead, if we are to be the best version of ourselves, we are to pay close attention to just what it is Christ is calling us to be. At times, when we truly analyze the claim and responsibility placed on us by Jesus, we might think it anything but an easy yoke. This is especially true when we read between the lines of what Paul is telling us is several of his letters.
Taken singularly, it is easy to perhaps miss the magnitude of the goal of Christian spiritual formation. I think this is one of the reasons that many Christians so often become so complacent in their faith. Each week they get dressed, go to church, sing a few hymns, take part in corporate prayer, listen to a sermon that waters down the gospel message, put their envelope in the collection plate, then speed to their favorite eatery before the waiting line gets too long.
To tell you the truth, somehow I think Jesus and Paul had more than this in mind. What Jesus had in mind was spelled out with clarity in the Sermon on the Mount, sort of a compact distillation of the kingdom principles he brought with him when he left the glories of the heavenly court and came a’callin’ on earth at that stable in Bethlehem. Let’s have a closer look at Paul’s take on what happened as a result of Christ’s mission.
I am certain you are aware of Paul’s idea, repeated in one way or another throughout his correspondence with the fledgling churches, of the relationship between Jesus and God. Paul tells us that all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ, which meant that God and Jesus were in some mysterious way the same being. In the Jewish culture of his day, Paul was making an incredible claim here. Jews were not supposed to make any image of God and even to speak his name was considered a capital offense. Now, here was Paul echoing Jesus by implying that the great and mighty Jehovah was in essence a loving, cosmic “Daddy” who was not only the Father of Jesus, but was also Jesus himself. And the reverse was true. Jesus was not only a great teacher and a skilled Rabbi; He was not only a great healer and the leader, the Grand Poobah of a band of shady-looking disciples. Jesus, according to Paul, was Jehovah Himself.
Standing alone, that sort of statement was enough to give the High Priest a prize-winning wedgie. Paul, however, wasn’t finished. In fact, he was just getting started. If you take a look at Ephesians 3:19, the Apostle tells the early church members that he prays “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (NSRV) Here Paul was pulling no punches; instead, he went straight for the knockout. Paul basically was saying that he prayed that, as Christians, the new believers were expected to become like Jesus.
No wonder the religious establishment saw Paul as a dangerous, if not demented, man. Equating Jesus with God was a reach. Saying that a human being could become like Jesus was beyond the pale of acceptability.
In case his readers missed his point, the Apostle repeats this theme in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. In verse 13 he equates Christian maturity with the achieving “the measure of the full stature of Christ.” He then drives home the point two verses later by stating:
Speaking the truthin love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NRSV).
In case you might be thinking that this message was somehow only for the believers in Ephesus, think again. Let’s wander over to Corinth and take a look at one of Paul’s letters to this stressed out church. After briefly covering a few topics, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that we “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness” (2 Cor. 3:18). Aiming his words in a different direction, Paul tells the Philippians to emulate the same manner of being that Jesus had (Phi. 2:5-8).
By now it should be clear that that Paul felt it essential to get this message across. He believed that in order to function as effective Christ-followers in their world, the members of the early church had to work, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, in securing personal change and continually grow toward the full stature of Christ. This was the goal for the early church and it is our goal for today.
The logical question at this point is: How am I supposed to pull this off?
It is here that we are confronted with one of the many paradoxical conundrums of the spiritual life. The first shall be last – the last shall be first – to save your life you must lose it – etc. For the theme we are discussing, we are confronted with the riddle of Christian spiritual formation. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves or sanctify ourselves; it is all a free gift of grace and we just have to accept it. Still, Paul tells us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” So what gives here?
Some sincere believers will tell you to stay away from spiritual disciplines because they are, at the end of the day, useless. We are powerless to change ourselves; only the Holy Spirit can pull that one off. Some of these Christians will go so far as to tell you that engaging in the classical spiritual disciplines is like sleeping with Satan….all this spiritual formation mumbo jumbo smells like smoke and brimstone.
Other equally sincere Christians will tell you the opposite. Even though personal transformation is a free gift of grace, we have a responsibility as well. We have to place ourselves in a receptive position in order to maximize our potential for change. I confess that I am more in this camp than in the former. I believe that spiritual formation requires a good deal of effort on our parts. God makes it all possible, but we have to appropriate what he has made possible. It’s like the great Quaker mystic Rufus Jones often said:
“The grace of God is like the wind blowing across the lake. If you want to get to the other side, you have to raise your sail.”
In organic Christianity or this new reformation, the move of God will not simply be at the hand of a person, but all of God’s people. There will be key leaders, but their job is to equip the people to do the work of ministry (see Eph. 4: 11-12). It was God’s intent from the beginning for every believer to do the work of the Kingdom (see Mark 16: 17-18). In this new reformation, God’s people will have their identity in who they are in Christ. They will understand that when they became a new creation, God put within them, by grace, what was necessary to succeed for His Kingdom…..
As the contemporary church transitions through this age of changing forms, focus, and mission it become increasingly difficult to discern exactly where the faith is heading. This state of limbo tends to create separate and distinct forms of reaction as some Christians embrace change and new directions as much-needed alterations in a church that is increasingly irrelevant and marginalized. Others welcome this transition about as much as they would a case of poison ivy. Instead of looking for new and vital ways to present the faith to a post-modern world, they retreat into cultural isolation and long for a return to the “good old days,” obviously forgetting that those halcyon days are a product of their imagination and euphoric recall more than anything else.
If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you are probably aware that I tend to fall more into the former camp than the latter. The Christian faith is in a major time of crisis and unless it undergoes radical transformation, it is going to become a historical relic with virtually little or no cultural impact. That’s why I firmly believe that the Emergent Movement within the church is not something to be feared, but instead, constitutes a long-overdue revitalization of the Christian faith on all fronts.
I am especially pleased that more and more followers of Jesus are coming to see that our faith was originally one where experience took priority over doctrine and “belief” and that trust in the Master and the teachings of the faith was transformational, more so than correct belief.
I mention all this because I have recently been reading Diana Butler Bass’ latest book, entitled Christianity After Religion. I am enjoying the book and learning much from its analysis of how the church arrived at its current dilemma, and future directions that it might take.
This, however, is not a review of this book.
As I mentioned, the Emergent Church movement is trending more toward experience as the true content of the Christian journey and that doctrine, although it serves a purpose, is not the true litmus test of one’s faith.
In a chapter entitled, “Believing,” Bass shares how the Massai people of East Africa, aided by Catholic missionaries, revised the Apostles’ Creed so that if more clearly reflected the realities of their encounter with Jesus. I want to share that revision with you, as I think it is not only relevant to the Massai people, but 21st Century Christians in America as well:
We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen
Personally, I find this version of the creed far more relative and far more transformative than the one composed all those many centuries ago. It contains the same truths, but presents these truths in a different, more personal way. In my mind, it points directly to God’s great story of restoration, healing, and ultimate happiness. Diana Butler Bass, speaking of this version of the creed, states:
The Maasi creed invites us to go on a safari with Jesus. These are not just words about God; rather, these words welcome us into a story of God’s hope for human happiness and healing.
Bass then goes on to share these important nuances of the French ancestry of the word “doctrine”:
Indeed, the word “doctrine,” a word fallen on hard times in contemporary culture, actually means a “healing teaching,” from the French word for “doctor.” The creeds, as doctrinal statements, were intended as healing instruments, life-giving words that would draw God’s people into a deeper engagement with divine things. When creeds become fences to mark the borders of heresy, they lose their spiritual energy. Doctrine is to be the balm of a healing experience of God, not a theological scalpel to wound and exclude people.
I think it is fairly obvious that our creeds, uttered in repetitious, monotone lockstep, have, through centuries of non-reflective recitation, lost all vestiges of spiritual energy. Further, they have been misapplied repeatedly, rather than used as the healing balm as originally intended. Instead, Christian legalists and rigid fundamentalists have appropriated the classic creeds of the faith at “statements of belief” and a litmus test of authentic Christianity.
This has constituted a great loss for the faith as a whole, but it is a loss that can be rectified, as in the case of the Maasi creed cited above. This is an exciting yet challenging time for the church. In order for the faith to not only survive, but thrive, new wineskins are sorely needed – wineskins that are more relevant to the contemporary world encountered by the faithful each and every day.
What we have is not the kingdom. We have churches without funding. We have workers without commitment. We have a mission – to love a world that is lost without the message that only we have. We need people who are committed to the cause of Christ and the commission He has given us. What if we became a church that was truly committed to the cause of Christ? What if every Christian invested in the church for the good of the community and not just their own benefit? Can you imagine how powerful the church could be if godly people united together to accomplish His purpose on earth. . . . . . . . . .There is so much untapped potential in the community of God on the earth. If we worked together in unity with the power of God on our side, there is no obstacle that could stop us, no force that could defeat us, no trial that could overwhelm us, and no wall that could contain us.
God did not create you to rest on your laurels. Instead, he hardwired you to keep on moving – keep on growing. So beware of settling in for too long. “But wait a minute,” you might be saying. “We all need to rest. All work and no play makes for a dull boy.” Yes, that’s true. We do, indeed, need to take time off from time to time in order to rest, recuperate, and recharge our spiritual batteries. However, these periods of recuperation were never meant to be a career. No, we have to keep on moving.
Although our comfort zones serve a useful purpose by giving us at least some areas of life that are predictable, nurturing, familiar, and, to some extent, under our direct control, these patterns of habitual behavior, feelings, and thinking can also be a prison. What’s even more baffling about our prisons of comfort, they are all too obvious to those who know us and completely invisible to ourselves. Often, when a friend loves us enough to confront us on our inability to get outside our comfort zones, our response goes something like this:
“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. No way am I like that.”
The idea here is clearly obvious, our comfort zones not only imprison us; they also create “blind spots.” A blind spot is simply an aspect of our thinking, feeling, behaving, and/or relating that we don’t see. It is also important that we recognize that many of our blind spots related to our zones of comfort are associated with our thinking. Habitual, familiar, and especially treasured ways of thinking are among the most tightly held comfort zones that we have. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most debilitating.
We create our comfort zones and rigidly live within their confines. Any attempt to dislodge us from the walls of this comfort zone meets with great resistance. I know in my own life, the pattern depicted in this epic poem plays out in pretty much the same way. I first begin to feel a bit anxious. After this, a voice within me tells me that if I am to reach my goals I have to get back into the desert, even if it is unpleasant.
Sometimes, I heed the voice and get moving. At other times, I require a divine nudge to get me moving.
So, what is the answer to the dilemma of imprisoning thinking and resistance to out of the box thinking? What can, more than anything else, get us off the dime and into action? What kind of solution, short of a sandstorm of divine origin, can get us back into the game of life?
I am of the belief that the answer(s) to these questions involve a degree of personal specificity. In other words, these answers are individual. What gets one person moving might make another person dig in more deeply. What works for the goose may not work for the gander. With those ideas in mind, however, I believe that something else must take place before we can find the answer that applies to us. What each of us has to do is conduct:
A fearless, thorough, honest, and relentless search for truth.
Within the parameters of this search, we must thoroughly evaluate the answers we arrive at. On a personal level, I admit that such a search can be both intensive and confusing. Still, if we fail to do this, we end up pursuing one of two potential courses of action, neither of which are productive or personally satisfying. Unless we conduct our personal evaluation of the potential answers, we run the risk of:
Letting someone else decide what is true for us or we abandon the process of seeking answers entirely.
Unfortunately, each week church pews are packed with good, decent folks who have opted for either of these empty options. Perhaps this reality again points to the subtle but no less dangerous aspect of the heresy of doctrine. In Christianity, doctrine is to be accepted on faith and not questioned. It is to be swallowed whole, and never masticated. It is easy to see how this sort of thing can lead to a bad case of metaphysical indigestion. There is a solution, but it is going to require a good bit of work on your part.
At various places in my writings, I have mentioned the importance of clarifying one’s world view. The importance of understanding your world view cannot be overstated. By “understanding your world view” I mean basically two things: having a vital and practical insight into the role your world view has in your life; and second, getting down to the brass tacks of defining your world view.
Both of these aspects of your world view are equally important and cannot be ignored. The fact is, your world view is the matrix through which you perceive and explain the world you live in. Additionally, your world view informs your decision making process. Ideally, we make choices and decisions that are in harmony with our internalized values and those values generally flow from our world view, whether we know it or not.
With those things said, I have also stressed the importance of setting aside time on a regular basis in order to check up on your world view. Chances are, over the course of time our perspective might have changed on certain things. We need to take a look at those changes and see how they fit in with the overall schema through which we interpret our world.
I have come to the conclusion that few endeavors in the life of a Christian are as important as the process of “worldview development.” The fact is, many Christians have never given thought to the significance of one’s worldview and, of the few that have taken up the subject, most quickly put it aside in favor of more tangible and practical pursuits.
The reality is, however, there a few items in the life of a Christian that are more tangible and practical than the development and implementation of a biblical worldview. Granted, putting together a workable worldview involves dealing with intellectual abstractions, but even these cognitive pursuits have their base in every day living. For it is our worldview that gives our lives meaning, purpose, and direction. Further, it is our worldview that forms the basis for our decision making process. Few things are more “down to earth” than these issues.
The fact is, we all have a worldview whether we realize it or not. And it is therein the problem arises. Chances are, if we are unaware of the dominant worldview we operate from, then it is a good bet that we are also unaware of how our worldview was formed. Once you realize how vitally important a worldview is, hopefully you will come to see that you can no longer leave this process to chance or random development.
Christian researcher George Barna makes the following observations regarding worldviews:
*Everyone has a worldview. Relatively few have a coherent worldview or are able to articulate it clearly.
*Most people don’t consider their worldview to be a central, defining element of their life, although it is.
*People spend surprisingly little time intentionally considering and developing their worldview. More often than not, their worldview development process is one of unconscious evolution and acceptance. They allow it to evolve and sum it up this way: “Whatever.”