Posts Tagged ‘commitment’

One of the biggest mistakes people make in planning a project is that they rarely figure out how to measure their success (or failure). How do you measure your progress? When we were children, many of our parents measured our growth by marks on a door frame. Up and up and up the pencil marks would go. But what about our spiritual lives? Can we measure our growth, our commitment, or our change?

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. [Luke 6:38-39, NIV]

measureAre we using the money we give as a measure of our commitment or our sacrifice in the things of God? I am not saying this is a good thing or bad one, I’m just asking.

In the “world,” more often than not, it’s the norm: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s a kind of joke, a bumper sticker that had it’s day some years back, and yet, the accumulation of wealth and stuff continues. Western cultures, particular, measure by salaries, investments, houses and neighborhoods, travel and vacations, labels, and let us not forget, cars.

I remember the embarrassment I felt when my half-sister (twenty years my senior) from Estonia had an opportunity to visit us in our home and she was befuddled as to why we had rooms in which their primary function was to sleep. She, with her three room apartment, no running hot water and a wood stove for cooking, raised a child and later housed that same adult child, his wife, and their two children. Every room, every inch of their apartment was multi-purpose.

The other day, I looked outside my front door and saw five cars parked outside our house. Every adult in our home has his or her own car.

all inSo, let me get back to the question of measuring the depth of the soul.

Am I really sold out to Christ, am I all in? Who would know? How do I know? Is it because I tithe now or attend services faithfully or volunteer each week? Are these viable measures? Or perhaps it’s the minutes I pray or read the Bible? Perhaps I memorize verses or know how to open my Bible to the chapter and verse without too much flipping. Perhaps I have kept score of the number of people who have come to Christ by my witness, my story, my relationships?

Being a believer or follower of Christ is not like getting a black belt in Tae Kwan Do or judo. There are no tangible tests.

It’s a way and a journey. It’s a marriage of sorts. It’s an intimacy. And each one is unique and different. So, why do we do all these things, these activities, these measurements? Because people have discovered through the years that our relationship with God can be enhanced. But honestly, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. But maybe, just maybe, this or that practice, will open the door wide to your heart and soul, and once it’s fully open, the Holy Spirit fills you.

And at that point, you simply are, because of I AM and you are bound. And all that is done is a natural outgrowth of that relationship. The surprise comes in the paradox. Give to receive, die to live.

Read Full Post »

I think most people want to be married, to be in a committed relationship and to build a family. This is the norm of our culture. But in that light, Paul says there will be divided devotion; it comes with the territory. I think it’s time to stop beating myself up on this issue of a divided heart.

I Corinthians 7:33-34a, 35
But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. . . . I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you [single people] may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Additional references to the idea of a “divided heart” might be Matthew 6:24 (two masters), James 4:8 (double-mindedness), Psalm 86:11 or Hosea 10:2. Bad, bad, bad, that’s all I read and the condemnation rains down upon me. Enough.

The undivided heart state is an amazing ideal, but I need to be more realistic about attaining single mindedness in this time of my life. If I only focus on the undivided heart scriptures, I lose sight of the other tasks God has placed before me: namely, my family.

Actually, my devotional practices are better than ever, single or married. My sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, my desire to please God, my trust in a sovereign God, all have grown in the past few years and continue to grow. I am studying the scriptures systematically and I am praying daily. I am seeking God’s will.

But much of my prayer time is on behalf of my husband and and particularly, my children, whose spiritual lives are quite unformed still. There have been so many missteps, so many truths I have not managed to share convincingly, so many outright failures. Our marriage, although laced with kindness and cooperation, is not particularly trusting or intimate. I need to reach a much deeper place of humility there.

And what of my other relationships? These too are an intrinsic part of loving God, that is, loving others. But don’t these relationships also take a piece of the heart? They take energy and time and thought. They require concern and devotion. They, too, divide the heart.

I wonder if it’s not a huge paradox. Maybe divided devotion for love actually comes together as ultimate devotion to God. After all, what is given (time, energy, love) to the “least of these” is given unto God [Matthew 25:40].

What if it’s not divided love that is a problem but mis-directed love: idol worship, loving without God, loving carnally, loving selfishly, or loving for gain.

Like a shady bookkeeper keeping double books, two complete sets–one the truth and one a complete fabrication–this divided devotion will fail. This double heart cannot live. Unfortunately, the black heart of deceit is strong and will prevail unless there is help, confession, and truth.

Read Full Post »

In Paul’s time, wholeheartedness meant more than just enthusiasm or sincerity. It was a single minded devotion; it was the whole spirit in focus. Only God knows if we are wholehearted in our faith.

Romans 1:9-10a
God, whom I [Paul] serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times…

As the information age took over the past decade, one of the initial assumptions was that everyone would have to be able to multi-task. There is so much to see and so much to read. The only way to capture it all was to have lots of “views” and “tabs” and “screens.” It was not uncommon for a computer owner to have multiple monitors or a monitor so big that a number of images could be displayed simultaneously. Time management was the buzzword and the goal was to eke out productivity from every available second. We were like teenagers convinced we could listen to music, watch television, play a video game, and do homework all at the same time. Good grades were the proof it worked.

Interestingly enough, this trend is actually abating. Some of the latest productivity gurus are now advocating single focus. They say, do one thing completely and with full attention, and work gets done faster and more accurately. A divided mind is like “RAM” in a computer, only so much can be allotted to each task. The brain’s computing power does have limitations.

How often do people say they cannot pray or meditate effectively because of a racing mind that continues to juggle a vast array of responsibilities, plans, and duties. We are actually losing the ability to be single-focused.

Currently, one of my spiritual disciplines is praying the hours (Morning, Midday, Vespers, and Night). This practice is only four times a day when I am to shut out everything else to read, chant, and pray. Ten minutes. And yet, my day gets sucked up into “busy-ness,” and I miss my time. There is no condemnation for missing. There is just loss of what God was ready to give in that moment.

Wholeheartedness and single focus is a time investment. It’s a discipline. It’s a commitment to whatever is before me. Today has potential for wholeheartedness… if I give way.

Read Full Post »

As much as we hate to admit it, most of us want to belong–to something or someone. I think we’re wired that way. We’re just waiting for the invitation, the opening, the opportunity.

Romans 1:6
And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Historically, I have always been the joiner. Even as far back as high school, my participation index in the yearbook was longer than anyone else. I haven’t changed much. I still join clubs, I join groups, I join movements, I join sororities, I join churches, and I join associations. But what I really want to join is a relationship. The difficulty is that relationships are two-way streets. To join a relationship, there has to be give and take, mutual agreement, and growth. In a group situation, I can join and then I can be a good member of the group or a lazy member of the group, but basically, I’m still a member. Being lazy in a relationship is the kiss of death.

In a relationship, there has to be commitment and contact and communication. There has to be transparency and authenticity. There has to be a willingness to work through the rough spots. There has to be a desire to actually be in the relationship. It takes energy to start and stay in a relationship.

In the epistle to the Romans, Paul is telling his readers and listeners that they are ALL called (invited) to be in a particular relationship. That relationship begins with the Christ and then manifests in koinonia (fellowship with others). That’s how we can really gauge our progress in this relationship: how we relate to others.

Once I enter into relationship with Christ, there’s also a benefit package, just like belonging to an organization. Those benefits are laid out in the scriptures. Among the benefits is a promise that Christ Jesus will be with me always, through everything. Once committed to this particular relationship, nothing can separate me from Christ [Romans 8:38-39].

And if I fear, I can call out, “I am yours, save me!” [Psalm 119:94].

I am yours. Save me. I am yours. Help me. I am yours. Draw me. I am yours… and no other.

Read Full Post »

John 18:4-6
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

The gospel of John is the only account of the crowd falling down to the ground when Jesus was arrested. Isn’t that the strangest thing? How could this happen? Why would John include this in the gospel?

I really like creating pictures in my mind as I read. Needless to say, my picture for this scene is quite dramatic. The only thing I can wrap my head around is that Jesus released a great deal of power (a release of power is also recorded in the story of the woman who bled for 12 years and touched his cloak in Mark 5:32). In my mind, Jesus was always having to choose to limit himself to the human side, the human container. But this moment was really a turning point. It was no longer a possible future; it was no longer a mere concept.

Turning points are moments of power in all of our lives. Some years ago I participated in a wonderful conference on “Story” at the Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. Before starting the workshop, our homework was to identify the turning points in our lives. This was a very illuminating exercise and I recommend it for everyone.

The power in a turning point comes from the motive or driver that brings the moment before us. Do we take the left or right fork in the road. When we choose a direction that is under girded by the Holy Spirit, then power is released. In Jesus’s case, there was enough power to knock down a crowd of people. If we take the other path, we are on our own.

If a turning point comes today, Lord, guide my decision.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: