Weaning

 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people? 

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task.

1 Corinthians 3:2-5 (AMP)

Every time – every single time – we followers of Christ disagree with one another, dismissing another person, being angry with them or disrespectful, we too prove ourselves unchanged by faith, untouched by the spirit and ‘walking like ordinary men’. It is good and right to discuss, to thrash out the core of our faith, to disagree and to agree to disagree, but when we do this without humility, without love, we may as well dismiss Christ.

What would this scripture read if instead of being either disciples of Paul or Apollos, it was paraphrased as ‘For when one of you says, “I follow John Piper,” and another, “I follow Ann Voskamp,” another, “I follow Bill Hybels”, yet another, “I follow Rachel Held Evans”, are you not proving yourselves unchanged, just ordinary people?’

Granted this analogy doesn’t quite compare because saying I like the teachings of a particular person is not the same as saying ‘I follow the teachings of this person to the exclusion of other persons’. What it does show is that we should be careful to not place ourselves, or another human being, on a pedestal. We – or they – can only fall. No one person or group or denomination has it ALL right when it comes to interpreting the bible or living out the Christian faith. We ALL get things wrong. We should expect to not have the answers to everything, all the while striving forward towards the goal of a life fully committed to Christ in heart, action and understanding.

If you have to disagree – don’t forget to be kind. I love how The Message paraphrases this same passage:

…I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master.

 

For Ordinary Folk Theology Is

A good and solid biblical teacher must come clean about their manner of interpretation early on, or you have no foundation for trusting what they say. Just saying, “It is in Scripture,” as most do, is largely meaningless, because anyone can find a workable “proof text” for whatever they want to believe somewhere in the Bible.

~ Richard Rohr

There is an excellent post from Richard Rohr today about how we approach our faith, its beliefs and tenets, and how we interpret the bible. I confess I have been steadily surprised and awed by Richard Rohr, although I don’t always agree with what he says, not being Catholic (but then, I think he’d be fine with that, which is one of the reasons I like him). As a Baptist, I truly value the importance of The Word, but Rohr seems to encompass this (and more) in this post. He puts into words things I might have discerned or felt but was never quite able to grasp concretely enough to express. I look forward to learning more. Meantime, if you’re interested, you can find the post by clicking here: Our Tricycle for Forward Movement

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Rohr, in trying to describe the Holy Spirit, uses the words ‘force field’, which inevitably and somewhat hysterically reminds me of Star Wars: “Use the force, Luke!”  

Image:

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38391903

 

The Most Sacred Place

A marble slab covering the rock-carved tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City has been lifted as part of a delicate $4m restoration of the most sacred monument in Christianity…

From Jesus’s Tomb in Jerusalem Exposed by Conservationists

Reading about this made me pause and reflect on the difference between the concept of ‘religion’, with its sacred places and concrete expressions of the inexpressible, the ‘religion’ in which God, or gods, are always at arm’s length, forever requiring my obeisance and devotion-at-a-distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to visit Jerusalem and the church where Jesus was said to be laid to rest (albeit briefly)!

Unlike the world’s idea of ‘religion’, however, it would not be because I believed something special could occur because I was there. There is no special place in the whole of creation where God is more accessible than anywhere else. The most sacred monument in Christianity is never going to be carved in stone. It’s just not possible.

All of us who are part of the Body of Christ are the most sacred monument to His presence. God’s presence, His favour, His nearness, are never found outside of ourselves. When we choose to follow Jesus, when we choose to give ourselves back to our Creator, we are His presence. If you want to be close to Him, if you want to find a place where He can reach you, or you can reach Him, you don’t have to go anywhere; you just have to love. You just have to be kind. You just have to be.

Immerse yourself deeply among people, by sharing their life, by friendship and by love. Give yourself to them completely, like Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served; you, too, become one with them. Then you will be like leaven, which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.

~ Little Sister Magdalene (as quoted by Contemplative in the Mud)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”

~extract from Matthew 11:28,29 (NRSVA)

Prayer in Practice

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from idpinthat.com

And this is the confidence that we have toward [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have [received] the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:14,15 (ESV)

Prayer is the deliberate act of the soul. It is true, full of grace and lasting, for it is united with and fixed into the will of our Lord by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

~ from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

God delights in our prayer. Do not be discouraged. He hears you and knows your heart and your deepest desire. Shine, then, as His light in the darkness of the world. Be your brother’s hands and feet, be your sister’s pillow. God knows and will give you the desires of your heart because your will is aligned with His.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Necessary Surrender

We each have our inner program for happiness, our plans by which we can be secure, esteemed and in control, and are blissfully unaware that these cannot work for us for the long haul – without our becoming more and more control freaks ourselves… what makes so much religion so innocuous, ineffective and even unexciting is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’… wilfulness [runs] rampant… there are about the same percentage of people who have actually handed over their will to God in most church circles as there are people who I meet at many ‘secular’ gatherings.

 ~ from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

I find that this is a process that sometimes needs to be repeated, especially when I fall into the mire of comparison. Our culture thrives on comparisons, we judge one another and we judge ourselves. I grew up in a very judgemental family. God has been showing me the patterns of behaviour that I have inadvertently perpetuated, particularly those that my children see, whether towards myself or others. Thinking myself better than others is a form of self-deceit. Thinking myself less than others is deceptive and equally destructive. As soon as I surrender my will to His, I begin to be capable of loving myself, and others, as God does – no more, no less. This is ‘through a glass darkly’. This is grace.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.

extract from 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)

Grace: Enough

While the prosperity gospel is limited to a certain segment of Christianity, some of the ideas weaved their way into mainstream evangelicalism. This book is not a critique of the prosperity gospel but of the ‘positivity gospel’ that developed in relation to it… Christianity can be presented in a ‘therapeutic’ sense with God being like a personal cheerleader whose primary concern is our success in life.

~ from Positively Powerless by L.L. Martin

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Jesus is our personal saviour, but that doesn’t make me more special, or more loved, or more favoured than anyone else. Jesus didn’t devote years of His life to teaching about God and the godly life just for my sake. In fact, pretty much everything He did was other-centred. While this is not a cause for co-dependent behaviour it is reason to think, if I consider myself a follower of Christ, that becoming more like Him means losing the worldly, self-centred aspects of myself. As Mama Maggie said, give and give and give until it hurts. I don’t think I’m there yet, but at least I know where I’m going and what to aim for, by grace.

Also, we have what Jesus called our helper, which is the gift of God’s presence within us: His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to bring about far more than we can ever even hope to accomplish on our own. When I stop asking God to help me get what I want, when I stop asking for Him to do what I think best, in those frail in-between places He performs miracles.

…I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations… At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

… And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Extract from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

Reblog: Rambles about those “spiritual gift tests”…

Excellent post. We sometimes want things to be too easy, and in the making and muddling of ‘too easy’ it becomes too complicated. I struggle with the idea of gifting because of my self-effacing tendencies, but this has brought some things into focus.
Also, I am really enjoying reading Positively Powerless. It’s given me a couple of aha! moments already. A paradigm shifter of a book and one that more Christians need to be aware of, especially those within evangelical circles, where the cult of positivity is at its most insidious (from my personal experience here in the UK).

Enough Light

I’ve been subjected to “spiritual gift tests” several times in my Christian life. By my wording, you can guess that I am not really a fan of these gift tests. I suppose there is a time and place for them, but I do not think they should be considered the primary or most accurate way to discover your spiritual gifts.

These tests are so subjective, in various ways. The tests themselves (usually multiple choice) are created by human beings and the wording of the questions themselves could skew results. And the personality and perspective of the person taking the test can skew results. No one can view themselves purely objectively, and our opinion of our proclivities could go either way.

[Not to mention that the spiritual gift options themselves can vary. I was amused that a recent spiritual gift test I had to take was clearly written by a charismatic…

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