Tuesday, January 29, 2008

True Spirituality - Reverse Migrants

Back in December, I started writing on observations I had made while reading Francis Schaeffer's book True Spirituality. I'd intended to write a number of blog entries on that book. However, time and circumstances have prevented me from doing so for the last few months. I now have the opportunity to write more, so I will take that opportunity now. I will include here the notes I made during a spiritual retreat back in September. Those notes follow:

I've read through the chapter on Christ's resurrection in True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer strongly stressed the space-time element of Christ's resurrection AND ascension. He refutes well those who would place Christ's suffering, death, burial and resurrection to the realm of legend or an "other" category.

I especially found useful his discussion on the passages in Romans and Galatians in which Paul writes of our own death, burial and rising with Christ. Schaeffer understands these passages as stating that our present-moment Christian life must be lived as if we have already died physically, gone to Heaven and come back for our resurrected body. We must live by faith as dead to this world and live to the power and presence of God.

This brought to mind a number of thoughts. We should be living the life of the future world NOW! We should live as "reverse migrants." In today's world, there are people who migrate from one country to another, and, in many lives, live the life of their first country while living in their new country (i.e. style of dress, language, food, etc). They live the life of their past culture in the present day.

Christians are called to be "reverse migrants." Most definitely not in the sense of reverting to a pre-Christian set of beliefs and ethic but in the following: Christians are called to live the life of their future culture in the present day. We should live a life which anticipates the truth and reality of the age to come.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Experiencing God

My mother died last Friday. It has been a time in which thoughts of God, the afterlife and what we are called to do on Earth to glorify Him have filled my mind. One thought that has been on my mind has been what I've noticed as a stronger emphasis in Christian media (and other media) about the importance of experiencing God.

I do agree that it is important to have a devotional life in which experiencing the reality of God plays a crucial role. It can be seen in church history that there are cycles in which Christians approach God as a set of principles rather than as the ultimate infinite being who created us for relationship to Him. Yet, as one of my theology professors once pointed out, the attempt to correct an error in one direction can often lead to an excess in the opposite direction. It occurred to me that this may apply about the topic of experiencing God.

In our western culture, there has been a move toward having an experience versus increasing the amount of information you take in via the form of a written text. One example is that of museums. A generation ago, many museums had displays with text that accompanied each display. While that has not gone away today, there is a stronger emphasis in these museums of providing a hands-on experience within their displays.

With this in mind, it occurred to me that as I've heard and read more about the desire by Christians to experience God, there could be something missing. Since we are becoming more experience oriented. I fear that this may possibly lead to a relationship with God which takes in far less for us than He intends. Let me explain.

First, let me state clearly that I see NO problem with any believer desiring to experience God in a deeper way. Providing that such a desire is worked out in ways that go along with a good understanding of who God is as laid out in the Bible, I think that is a great thing. However, my concern centers on what would happen if someone's relationship to God is limited ONLY to their experience.

The life of the mind is crucial also to Christian growth in God. Biblical meditation is one of these means. We are commanded to meditate on the Scriptures (14 times in the Psalms we are instructed to ponder God's Word and God's wonderful works). In these thoughts, we are led to an understanding of the depths of God's glory,holiness, love, mercy, wrath against sin, etc. that we might never encounter, or be able to encounter, in our own personal experience of Him. I cannot know, by experience, God's tender care for those who give birth. Yet, I can praise him for His mercy upon child-bearing mothers even if I can never experience this myself.

I am a Christian. Yet, I am also a male, an American, and one whose life has been lived in parts of the 20th and 21st centuries. If I were to limit my relatioship to God to my own experience, I would miss out on so much. I have much to learn about God from other Christians. I can learn from other male and female Christians. I can learn from other American Christians, as well as from those who are not. I can learn from other Christians who have lived in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as those who lived before my time. Thankfully, many of their journals and writings exist to this day.

God's command to us in this regard was echoed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testamant: "You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37 NASB quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 ). Note that all three components are needed: heart, soul and mind. As you grow in your relationship to God and experience Him more deeply, grow also in your knowledge of aspects of God which you might never encounter in your own personal experience. Loving Him with your mind will allow you to know and appreciate God's wonders beyond your own personal experiences.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recap of the 24 Hour Prayer Vigil

Here are some pictures taken during our 24 Hour Prayer Vigil held from December 31st to January 1st. The first picture was taken at a prayer station having to do with our contributions to the body of Christ. Individuals could add a piece of stained glass to help show how the individual contributes to the whole.

The second picture is that of a barbed-wire cross which reminded us of the cruelty of what the Lord Jesus faced to pay for our sins. On this cross, we would place a piece of dirty cloth and would take a piece of clean cloth in its place, to remind us of the great exchange which Christ made in which He paid for our sin and we are given His perfect righteousness in its place.

Around midnight, it started to snow. And did it snow. It was a powerful reminder of God's peace in our surroundings. It did make for some interesting stories among us as we exchanged stories of the challenges of getting to church during a middle of the night snowstorm. We were so blessed to see some of our fellow intercessors braving the snow at 4am to 6am to get to church.

This is a long view of the labyrinth we used in our fellowship during the Prayer Vigil. There were seven stops (prayer stations) which were powerful and vivid reminders of God's love.

We know that some folks who wanted to come to the Prayer Vigil simply could not get there due to the snow. Yet, we sensed that God did indeed want us to do what we were doing. There was a sense of quiet and peace both outside (with the falling snow) and inside with the labyrinth and in the sanctuary. In the church sanctuary, there was silent prayer for repentance and reflection, both on the end of one year and start of a new one.

Happy New Year 2008 from the School of the Solitary Place .